Skip navigation
middle-school-lunch.png SDI Productions/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Many schools will likely reduce the number of students fed at a time during lunch.

The road ahead for onsite dining: Back to school for K-12

Unless there is a dramatic coronavirus resurgence, the pressure will be on to get students back to K-12 schools this fall, which is good news for their meal programs.

Online classes may become much more prevalent in higher education, and telecommuting may make inroads in the workplace, but distance learning is unlikely to make much of a long-term impact in the K-12 market despite the mass experiment with it forced by coronavirus shutdowns. Whether children and teens can learn as effectively online as in a classroom is a very open question, but the reality is that too many parents need their kids in school for the bulk of the day for distance learning to become prevalent beyond the short-term coronavirus emergency.

Consequently, there is likely to be severe pressure on school systems to get kids back to school, certainly by this fall if not sooner, absent compelling circumstances. For school meal programs, getting back to normal operations would be welcome as coronavirus basically has extended the traditional summer feeding program back into the spring, complete with summer feeding’s diminished meal counts, limited menus and skeleton staffing requirements.

If and when in-person classes resume, school meal programs are likely to see changes designed to accommodate the social distancing policies likely to remain in effect. For instance, the lunch rush may become a thing of the past, with more lunch periods scheduled to limit the number of students in each or staggered in a way to limit crowds at serving lines.

Another possibility is having scattered points of service, such as kiosks and carts placed around a school, to avoid mass congregation in the cafeteria. Some high schools already do something like this, scheduling a single but extended lunch period during which students can patronize different points of service located in different areas of the building.

Unfortunately, bulk condiment dispensers and those popular flavor stations with their communal spice shakers kids can use to custom flavor their meals could be history.

This is part four of an eight-part series on the future of onsite operations following the COVID-19 pandemic. The first part is on the impact of salad bar; the second is on the impact of colleges; and the third is on the impact in hospitals.


TAGS: Coronavirus
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.