In this special edition of 5 Things, Food Management highlights five things you may have missed recently about developments regarding coronavirus and its impact on onsite dining.
Here’s your list for today:
- Riots force Chicago Schools to suspend meal program for a day
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) plans to resume meal distribution on June 2 after a day-long suspension because of safety concerns surrounding looting and protests around the city. The district, the nation’s third largest, has given out more than 12.5 million meals since the start of the coronavirus pandemic through a food program that has been widely praised by parents who rely on schools as a primary food source. Of CPS’ 355,000 students, 271,000 come from low-income families and about 17,000 are homeless.
“We know our meal sites serve as a critical community resource and we are ready to resume this essential service for our families tomorrow following an assessment of ongoing activities,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said in a news release on June 1. Chicago police will help with security in the areas around school pickup sites, she said.
The decision to suspend the program late the previous day faced immediate criticism and was an abrupt change from a letter sent to parents earlier in the evening by Jackson that said the district would continue to provide free meals for all students.
- Indiana University requires students to leave campus in December and January
Most students will be required to leave Indiana University (IU) residence halls when classes go fully online between Nov. 30, 2020, and Feb. 7, 2021, says IU spokesperson Chuck Carney, adding that international students and students with no other permanent residence will be the only students allowed to stay in their university housing.
Carney also said that IU will implement measures to avoid crowding and contact in dining areas. “Occupancy limits will apply in dining areas, outdoor dining and pick-up delivery will be set up, shared items will be avoided and access to buffets and salad bars will be limited,” he noted. “Food service hours will be extended, and physical barriers will be set up at cash registers, pick-up areas and other areas where a six-foot distance might be hard to maintain.”
All dining locations where the above guidelines can apply will be open, Carney added.
- Georgia unveils school reopening guidance plan
The Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Department of Public Health unveiled a plan that provides guidance on the reopening of schools in the state. The guidelines are not requirements but are meant to provide considerations for local school leaders as they develop their own plans to reopen in the fall, which is not a mandatory start time.
The plan calls for placing school districts in one of three levels: substantial spread of COVID-19, minimal/moderate spread and low/no spread. Each level includes a set of recommendations for preventing infection, transporting students, entering school buildings, serving meals, transitioning between classes, conducting large group gatherings, supporting teaching and learning and protecting vulnerable populations.
In communities with substantial spread, schools that are closed will remain closed and will implement distance and remote learning while schools in communities reporting minimal to moderate spread will be provided with the most specific guidelines regarding enhanced social distancing measures and isolation as well as the deep cleaning of impacted classrooms and spaces.
For schools in this level, disposable plates and utensils will be used and schools will be required to stagger cafeteria seating. Alternate models include serving meals in classrooms or in cafeterias with spaced serving lines, longer meal periods for more staggered meal delivery and consideration of pre-packed boxes or bags for each student instead of traditional serving lines.
Read more: State releases guidelines to reopen schools
- Senior living facility implements lunch date program for residents
The Residences at Chestnut Ridge, a 142-resident community of senior apartments, personal care and memory care in Pennsylvania, has remained COVID-free thanks to early actions such as eliminating communal dining and having all meals served in residents’ rooms. Now the facility has embarked on steps to keep residents engaged and active with programs such as lunch dates in which a selected resident gets to pick three other residents and then the four go to the dining area where each person sits by themselves at a table with four tables in the room.
"One thing that has really come about, that we knew all along but it shows its head in all of this is the residents, yes, miss their families...but they also miss each other," notes Kim Smith, Chestnut Ridge's director of operations. "That cannot be minimized. They're together a lot during the day normally. Our residents eat together three times a day. They're family."
- Meal delivery robots set to return this fall at University of Houston
Although they were shut down in late May, the fleet of autonomous robots on the University of Houston campus will be back to delivering food when most students return to campus in the fall. The robots, which began roaming campus last November, stuck around campus after many students moved out because of the coronavirus pandemic and were in service until May 21.
The delivery robots were not considered as a health risk and in fact offered students that were on campus a chance to have contact-free delivery for meals and snacks, says Alexcis Mendoza, district marketing manager for dining services provider Chartwells.
“Prior to this time, the delivery robots did see an enhancement to standard cleaning and sanitation practices and a decrease in user participation correlated to the decrease in on-campus residents and start of summer break,” Mendoza said.
Contact Mike Buzalka at firstname.lastname@example.org