The Student Nutrition Association hosted a 4-day virtual series to help attendees navigate this post COVID world and the challenges to come with the 2020-2021 school year. With the advice and guidance from experts across the school nutrition industry, the Back to School Series provided a starting point to many of those attempting to plan the unplannable.
Here’s a recap of the major discussion points provided on each day:
PLANNING FOR NEXT SCHOOL YEAR
SNA focuses on strategic thinking around planning for the new school year in an ever-changing environment. You can’t completely plan for the unplannable but you can adjust your way of approaching your plan. Bring people and resources into the conversation and share awareness instead of imposing changes in order to increase ownership from your staff. The real strategy behind planning for the new school year is to plan for different scenarios. Be adaptable.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE WITH PPE AND CLEANING SANITATION
Before you begin to implement the necessary health and safety changes, you must ensure that you have a certain amount of buy-in with your staff. It is easier to enforce changes when your staff feels like they are a part of the solution and are in partnership with you. Additionally, districts should constantly look for updates from the CDC, federal, and local governments as rules and policies can change from one day to the next. Once you have the foundation, the district can then decide how to handle anything from disposable/washable masks to the appropriate disinfectant.
CARING FOR EMPLOYEES: HEALTH AND WELLNESS DURING A PANDEMIC
There’s a lot of anxiety surrounding our new normal. So much so, that districts are struggling with their staff not willing to return in fear for their health. As people, we should always want the best for others, so understanding their needs and accommodating for their anxieties is a must. When your team feels heard, seen, and valued you connect with them on a human level and can at times, propel them to rise to the occasion, in the face of their fears. Give them the tools to be resilient.
PROCUREMENT IN ACTION
Procurement goes hand in hand with how classes will be structured and as well as how meals will be served. Once you have that down, you’ll know what type of items you are looking for. Make use of the scenarios you have planned and make sure you procure items that can be used for most of those strategies. You must be adaptable and have items on hand that can be used to feed students in classrooms or as meal kit deliveries and or pickups depending on the situation you encounter. You must not forget to add cleaning and sanitation supplies in your procurement plan. Remember, the CARES Act included funds for schools the ability to purchase items to increase safety and sanitation.
PLANNING FOR BACK TO SCHOOL IN A COVID-19 WORLD: MENU DESIGN & PACKAGING
The upcoming school year will be vastly different and we must change our mindset. The offerings we had in the past might not work for the environment we are in today. When planning for menus, you have to rely on the scenarios you have established for your schools. In addition to your scenarios, you have to consider maximizing your current infrastructure, make sure you have the right equipment, offer versus serve challenges, menu fatigue, etc.
USING TECHNOLOGY DURING A CRISIS: PRE-ORDERING AND MEAL COUNTS
Technology has helped school nutrition professionals run a smoother meal program. With the state of our community, it is important that we rely on the available technologies to help us through these social distancing times. Several speakers went on to share the tech tools they have been using to help distribute meals. While some tools weren’t as robust as others, it is very obvious that the need for menu pre-ordering is at the forefront of everyone’s mind and PrimeroEdge is right there with them. With PrimeroEdge’s contactless suite, districts have the ability to enforce the health and safety standards that they are very much trying to administer. Additionally, schoolcafé’s Digital Pre-Ordering can enable students to receive meals in their own classrooms!
PLANNING FOR EQUIPMENT AND MEAL SERVICE WITH SOCIAL DISTANCING REQUIREMENTS
There’s a lot of talk around the necessary equipment schools will need to carry out their scenarios during meal service. Because of the hit districts have taken financially, one must take budgeting for these items very seriously. Search for grants and giveaways to help procure the necessary equipment and whenever possible make sure you can repurpose equipment you already have. Place casters on some shelves to make a rolling cart!
ENGAGING YOUR COMMUNITY IN THE NEW COVID-19 ENVIRONMENT
It goes without saying that we need one another more than ever, and so engaging with your community is the key to real success. It’s more than just food, it’s about the kids and making sure they get all the support they can get. Little donations, and welfare check-ins with students and families can go a long way. Leverage other people’s support, make an outreach plan, and think about how to communicate with students and their families.
Recognize that this is an experimental phase and failures and mistakes are bound to happen. It is imperative to use those failures/mistakes to learn and build from. What works for one school district might not work for another. There is no one answer or strategy that fits all. This post COVID world will challenge our status quo and push us to think outside the box. We truly are stronger together and SNA’s Back to School Series proved it by giving us all the opportunity to share thoughts, resources, and strategies.
PrimeroEdge was a proud sponsor of this virtual series. Learn more.