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 https://brightbites.ca/educators/ 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: https://www.odph.ca/student-nutrition-program-resources-1