Datassential delved into a study of 426 operators with secondary research, asking for K-12’s take on the current situation: Nearly all schools are closed for in-person education, with many states planning to keep them locked up for the remainder of the academic year.
As more local families experience job layoffs and furloughs, some K-12 operations have actually seen their participation go up, and their role in the community galvanized with scenes of pickup points, social distancing and meal kits packed for the week to keep kids fed.
Loosening up of USDA rules has helped, but, as the study finds, “life isn’t easy…K-12 operators were previously not allowed to deliver food or have food for off-premise consumption, but now those are their only modes of service.” Challenges include limited prep areas and the necessity of choosing foods that travel well, and in some cases are shelf-stable in case students don’t have access to a microwave or stove.
Underlying the research is the assurance that “K-12 operators aren’t going anywhere: Although most K-12 schools are currently closed, schooling as we know it isn’t going to go away.” Just what that will look like remains to be seen, but school food professionals report confidence in their ability to adapt, especially after getting through this pandemic.
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