School Dining Services During COVID-19

Many aspects of student life will look and feel very different during this academic year.  One very important aspect that campus and system leaders must scrutinize carefully is campus dining. 

Before considering the details of how to manage the dining services, campuses need to investigate if their dining operations fall under the education guidance, health department, and/or business codes.  For some campuses, the regular cafeteria may fall under different codes than any retail dining options.  Contact your local health department for guidance.    

Things Schools Can do to Minimize Risk of Transmission for Students

  • Eliminate self-service or buffet-style dining options altogether. 
    • Provide as many outdoor seating options (tents, picnic tables, etc) for students, as research demonstrates the rate of transmission is significantly reduced outdoors.
    • Provide a variety of grab and go meal options for students.
    • Ensure that these options remain exciting for students (if your budget allows), for example, Furman University in Greenville plans to open a pop-up restaurant outside of their library that will serve street food from around the world. This will provide more incentive for students to utilize these alternative options.
    • Ensure that these options also continue to cater to different dietary needs and preferences that students may have.
    • Assign students specified times to come to the dining hall, making a “reservation system,” or altering course schedules to reduce potential congestion.
    • Ensure tables are spaced 6 feet apart and there are no more than 6 seats to a table.
    • Limit the number of individuals that are allowed inside the dining areas.
    • Enforce social distancing protocols and do not allow students to enter indoor dining areas without masks or PPE.
  • Establish a system for delivering food to students who may be in temporary or extended isolation.  

 

 

Things Schools Can do to Minimize Risk of Transmission for Staff 

  • Ensure that employees are provided with proper PPE and are wearing it at all times. 
  • Educate and train all employees on proper sanitation standards including handwashing. 
  • Preferably increase the pay of these employees as they are risking their lives in order to perform these tasks. 
  • Some schools are looking at the possibility of bringing in robots to prepare and deliver food to students…while this is a futuristic and interesting option we should consider the effects something like this may have on the cafeteria and dining hall jobs that many individuals rely on. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/13/dining/college-food-coronavirus.html
  2. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/schools/guideihe.pdf

 

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