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:
- School districts serving more meals than food banks
After the COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act took effect, establishing a nationwide waiver to help school districts provide students with nutritious meals while limiting their exposure to the novel coronavirus, some school districts have ended up feeding not just students but the community at large, sometimes to the point of outstripping traditional social service agencies.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second largest with 700,000 students, has served roughly 5 million meals to children and adults alike at 63 grab-and-go food centers set up since it closed schools on March 16. Meanwhile, the country’s largest district, New York City Public Schools, has 400 grab-and-go sites, and news broke April 3 that it had expanded its free meals to include all New Yorkers, students or adults.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner observed during a recent press conference that his district is serving more meals daily than any of the nation’s food banks; as it handed out more than 432,000 meals on March 31 alone. The district is also providing meals to 13 temporary homeless shelters in Los Angeles.
- COVID response raises other concerns in Minnesota senior facilities
Facing a surging number of coronavirus cases in nursing homes—as of April 7, there have been 20 deaths from COVID-19 among residents of Minnesota senior care facilities, accounting for more than half the deaths statewide—leaders of Minnesota’s senior care industry and the state Health Department have unveiled aggressive new measures aimed at stemming the spread of the disease. The new safeguards include constant mask-wearing by staff, more aggressive segregation of infected residents, the end of group dining and many other congregate activities, as well as more rigorous screening of all nurses, aides and other workers who enter the facilities.
However, the safeguards are raising other issues concerning the effect of such isolation on the resident seniors as they have transformed virtually every aspect of daily life within senior care communities. Group activities, from card games to concerts, have been canceled, meals are being delivered to resident rooms in disposable containers to avoid contamination and once-bustling hallways are now eerily empty, with residents sometimes talking to each other through cracks in doorways. Visiting family members are no longer allowed inside and even being deprived from seeing dying loved ones.
- School district suspends meal program
Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS) in North Carolina has announced that it is suspending its meal and delivery services. The school system had offered a curbside grab-and-go service Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. where families could pick up food donations for students stuck at home.
Citing public health concerns, the district elected to suspend the service until at least April 17 as administrators determine what steps to take next. The decision also included area delivery locations.
“Beginning Wednesday, April 8, we will temporarily suspend service at our 13 school food service sites and each of our meal delivery locations,” Nathanael Shelton, JCPS executive director of communications, said. “This difficult decision was made to protect the health and safety of the students, their families and our staff, and to provide the school nutrition department time to replenish supplies and train staff on additional safety protocols.”
- Strict rules govern reopened Chinese businesses
Chinese companies are going to extreme lengths to stave off new coronavirus outbreaks as they reopen for business. Some of these measures are government-mandated, such as opening office windows three times a day for 30-minute stretches, suspending the use of fingerprint-entry keypads and forbidding workers from sitting face-to-face while eating lunch.
Companies have added their own rules. For example, at iPhone assembler Foxconn Technology Group, China's largest private employer with more than 1 million workers, workers eat at cafeteria tables separated by tall dividers and cafeteria seats have been labeled with QR codes for workers to scan so the company has a record of who sat where and when for meals, according to company notices.
Meanwhile, telecom giant Huawei issued a 73-page manual with detailed protocols, including requiring that all food in Huawei cafeterias must be thoroughly cooked, with sunny-side-up eggs and soft-boiled eggs off limits for now.
- COVID-infected school cafeteria worker dies
A longtime food services worker at Casis Elementary School in the Austin ISD in Texas has died after testing positive for the coronavirus, district officials announced. Patricia “Pati” Hernandez, 51, had worked at Casis for 10 years and for the district since 2002. While Hernandez did test positive for COVID-19, district officials said there is still no confirmed cause of death, though Hernandez is being counted as the fourth person to die of COVID-19 in Travis County.
School officials said Hernandez was not one of the food services workers who prepared and delivered 200,000 meals for the district’s school-aged children and their families following school closures. The district’s meal distribution program has served tens of thousands of meals daily. The last time she worked at the elementary school was March 12, officials said.
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]