COVID-19 has shut down many cities with stay at home orders in place.  Nonessential employees have been working from home, but some are not as lucky and have been furloughed or let go from their job.  We quickly found out that School Nutrition professionals are essential especially in economically disadvantaged areas where parents rely heavily on school meals to feed their children.

School food operations are now operating via curbside and/or bus routes.  This seems to be the new normal for most districts at least until May and for some until the end of the current school year.  So how can you keep your food and staff safe while serving the community?

Food Safety

Although there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted to humans from food, special precautions need to be considered.

  1. Wash your hands frequently and change your gloves often
    • It’s always important to note that gloves are not a substitute for handwashing. You should wash your hands between glove use and any time you’ve touched your clothes, face, or handled any trash. 
    • Don’t touch ready to eat foods with your bare hands either. Try to use tongs and spatulas whenever possible. 
    • Frequently clean and sanitize all food carts, counters, tables, door handles, and all other surfaces where hand or glove contact occurs
  2. Stay out of the danger zone while serving
    • Keep hot food in thermal holding cabinets or thermal covered racks and cold food in a cooler or thermal cooling bags
  3. Provide meal instructions for parents
    • Unfortunately, the food safety guidelines we all know and love isn’t considered common knowledge. Many people don’t know what temperature to reheat foods to, or whether or not some items need to be refrigerated. Use this free to download handout to attach with your emails so families have those guidelines with them.

Staff Safety

  1. Wear a mask – the CDC is now recommending wearing a mask and some cities are mandating this. Even if your mask isn’t medical-grade, this can highly reduce the chances of COVID-19 spreading, especially if everyone is wearing one!       
  2. Create a mandatory protocol for employees coming into work
    • Take temperature, hand washing, no contact, maintain social distancing between everyone by keeping individuals 6 feet apart from one another
    • Don’t come to work at all if you are feeling ill or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
  3. Adjust your serving times and methods
    • Limit the number of days serving to lessen possible exposure to the virus
    • Pass meals to families using a tray or cart or place the meals directly into the car trunk to eliminate contact

Don’t forget to document everything you can. Though COVID-19 will one day go away, emergencies are always coming up and you might need these procedures again. Keep in contact with other professionals both in and outside of the industry to gather any ideas you can implement in your district. What are you doing to keep your communities safe? Let us know here!