Delivering Meals to the Classroom

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HOW COVID-19 WILL SHAPE BREAKFAST AND LUNCH AT K-12 SCHOOLS

By now, you’ve probably scoured the CDC’s and your state’s recommendations for reopening schools at least a hundred times, and you keep coming back to the same question: How do I safely feed my students when their movement around the school should be limited?

The CDC recommends that schools should “serve individually plated meals in classrooms instead of in a communal dining hall or cafeteria.” But they also acknowledge that each return to school plan amidst the coronavirus pandemic will have to be tailored to the needs of each community based on what is actually feasible.

FOOD DELIVERY OPTIONS FOR SCHOOLS

Whenever possible, school districts should package breakfast and lunch, then deliver to students in their classrooms. Many students will eat at their desks to help with social distancing. Other options may include choosing particular points, like hallway intersections, lobbies or libraries, and staggering meal distribution before students return to dine in their classrooms.

Depending on your school’s size, you may even be able to arrange for meal pick-up in the cafeteria – again, staggered to prevent large congregations of students – and allow students to take their meals back to the classroom. Each school’s plan is going to look different.

One way to streamline breakfast would be to make the meal an easy grab 'n' go item that students pick up when they arrive. By making it part of a necessary activity (arriving in the morning), you reduce the amount of interactions and movement around the school.

Since arrival times will likely be staggered, cooler meals will be more convenient than trying to keep meals hot, at least as the school year begins. Try breakfasts like fruit and yogurt parfaits, overnight oats (instead of traditional hot oatmeal) or mini-pancakes with jam or jelly that can be served cool.

SETTING UP FOR CLASSROOM DINING

Classrooms will need to quickly transform from learning spaces to dining halls. Lunchtime will become a scheduled period in itself, including:

  • Handwashing before and after meals
  • Sanitizing desks 
  • Socially-distant meal pickup and delivery

 

The most important aspect will be setting up a system that works when students finish their breakfasts and lunches. Have the following for after each meal:

  • A bin for food scraps (this could even become a school-wide science lesson in composting!)
  • A sink for liquids (for classrooms without a sink, a bucket will be necessary)
  • A separate bin for serving trays and containers to wash, recycle or dispose

 

To limit classroom interruptions and interactions, place these bins outside the classrooms after meal times for pick up.

PREPARING FOR LUNCH IN THE CLASSROOM

While smaller school districts may only offer a few choices at lunch, larger districts may be able to offer more. Multiple choices can complicate classroom delivery and dining, but it’s possible.

Have students fill out lunch menu sheets in the morning during breakfast and collect them as you gather breakfast leftovers. Alternatively, other districts that previously served meals in the classroom have found success using simple Google Forms to take lunch orders from students.

This is an easy way to address food allergies and dietary restrictions and also keep students excited about their lunches. By allowing them to still have a say in what they are eating, you can help keep school lunch program participation rates up.

HOW TO PACKAGE FOOD FOR CLASSROOM DELIVERY

The distance between a cafeteria or commissary and a classroom can create challenges for foodservice operators. Besides keeping the food at the right temperature, transporting food up stairs and across uneven surfaces can cause leaks and spills.

Portion control will also be an important consideration as your foodservice operators balance both nutrition and budget. Look for containers that have a visual fill line or are flush-fill capacity, come with tight-fitting lids or are stackable containers to secure breakfast and lunch during transportation.

Conex Complements®

portion containers

can help serve the right amount and offer mix-and-match food options to your student body. The matching recessed lid makes the combo easy to stack for classroom delivery.

 

J Cup®

food containers

hold both hot and cold foods and match with a variety of lid types to help maintain the integrity of the food during transport.

 

ClearSeal®

hinged lid containers

have a strong perimeter seal that keep crumbs, dressings and freshness inside. The stacking platform helps provide stability as you shuttle meals from cafeteria to classroom.

 

PresentaBowls® Pro

square bowls and lids

are perfect for cold and hot food alike. The lid forms a leak-resistant perimeter seal for one less worry during mealtime transportation.

Solo® VS DSP

paper food containers

have a squat profile making them easier to eat from. Add on a vented or unvented lid for a secure, portable container.

Stay In The Know

Explore other cafeteria solutions from Dart that help meet portion requirements!

DOWNLOAD GUIDE

GETTING THE DELIVERY RIGHT

Once you’ve got the menu planned and the right containers to serve your student body, perform a trial run to avoid any hiccups on the first day back at school. We can provide samples of Dart products so that you know for a fact you’ll be ready to roll on the first day of school. The Oregon Department of Education also offers some great advice:

Before you launch your breakfast program, conduct a small dress rehearsal. Prepare meals to see how the production will actually work in your school kitchen. Pack the items into the food containers and place them onto the delivery equipment. Transport the meals to a few classrooms to see if unexpected barriers exist (ledges, uneven surfaces, and narrow doorways). Note: In one school, the delivery carts were too tall for the classroom doorways. If the food service manager had not done her dress rehearsal, she would have been faced with 15 classroom breakfast carts that would not have made it into the actual classrooms on the first day of service!

It’s quite the task to manage meal orders, special diet accommodations, participation documentation, meal delivery and trash disposal for breakfast and lunch in a normal year, let alone in the midst of a pandemic.

As you work through your school’s menu and food packaging needs, we’re here to help you find the right solution. Browse our suggested foodservice products for education or reach out to one of our expert sales reps to learn more. We can help you develop a customized food and beverage packaging plan for the 2020-21 school year to keep your students well-fed and ready to learn.

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