Food in Schools during COVID-19

Despite the removal of most public health restrictions, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and other infections remains. While it’s easy to assume we can return to how things were in schools before the pandemic, some COVID-19 preventive measures remain strongly encouraged.

Follow these recommendations to promote safe and healthy eating habits at school, and to ensure continued delivery of food-related components of the Ontario curriculum, all while reducing the risk of infection:

Maintain Safe Food Handling and Sanitation Practices

  • Ensure access to lukewarm water and soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Encourage staff and students to perform hand hygiene for at least 20 seconds:
    • Before and after eating
    • Upon return from a lunch outing
    • Before and after handling food, crops, or soil for instructional-based food use or food distribution
  • Regularly clean and disinfect eating surfaces and other shared items like appliances.
    • Note: The use of microwaves and multi-use appliances, utensils, etc. is permitted.
  • Ensure plans are in place for managing food waste including daily cleaning and sanitation of commonly used bins/containers.

Create Healthy and Safe Eating Spaces

  • Ensure good ventilation in eating spaces. Open windows, if possible.
  • Consider eating outdoors, when possible.
  • Where possible, schedule lunch breaks to reduce the number of people eating in proximity to each other.
  • Allow enough eating time for students and staff to feel relaxed, enjoy food and socialize.
  • Limit distractions such as screens, devices, etc.

Food and Drink Service

  • Consider serving food in individual serve containers or dishes.
  • Avoid self-service from a buffet table, salad bar, and common platters, dishes, and containers.
  • Have one person serve or portion out food and drinks prepared on school premises or from food service establishments.
  • Foods prepared at home should not be brought to school to share with others during celebrations or other occasions.  
  • Consider using water filling stations or water fountains to fill personal water bottles instead of using the spout for drinking.
    • Personal water bottles should be labelled and should not be shared.
    • Clean and sanitize fountains, taps or filling stations regularly.

Instructional-Based Food Use

  • Students and staff involved in instructional-based learning with food (such as hospitality programs, curriculum-based activities like planting seeds, cultural aspects of food, etc.) must follow regular safe food handling and sanitation practices as required by the Ontario Food Premise Regulations.
  • Food prepared or grown for instructional-based purposes may be shared with others.
  • Visit for tips for all educators to help teach nutrition in a positive way.

School Food Programs

  • Nutrition/third party food programs are permitted to operate if food handlers use adequate food handling and safety practices, as required by the Ontario Food Premise Regulations.
  • Food served must meet the SNP guidelines.
  • While not required, consider offering food items through a “grab and go” format.
  • For more information and resources on Student Nutrition Programs, including “grab and go” snack ideas, visit: