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Ten Steps to Creating a Winning Lunch-in-Classroom Program

While many districts have yet to announce school start dates for school year 2020-2021, now is the time to plan for how your school will be serving lunch this school year.

Several options for K-12 meal service have been proposed nationwide, including:

· Classroom Service/Classroom Dining

· Cafeteria Service/Classroom Dining

· Take-Home Meals

Should your district decide to proceed with Classroom Service/Classroom Dining, the following content provides considerations for serving lunch via this mode. Operationally, you’ll need to think about menu planning, compliance, procurement, sanitation, personal protective equipment (PPE), training for your staff and more.

Ten Post-COVID Considerations for Serving Lunch in the Classroom

The following 10 steps outline how to create a winning school lunch program in your classrooms – taking both service and dining into account.

1. Assess the service model that your administration has asked you to provide. Know that it is never too early to begin having conversations with your leadership team about the method that makes the most sense for your district. The School Nutrition Association guide, “Covid-19 Thought Starters on Reopening Schools for SY2020-21” outlines steps to take to ensure your school’s concerns are heard before decisions are made.

2. Learn which meal pattern the USDA is requiring you to utilize. With the USDA regulations always in flux for the National School Lunch Program, learn and assess which meal pattern regulations are current leading up to SY20-21. What waivers are available or not available, and how does that impact your menus and service delivery?

3. Create a plan. Once you know which model your administration has asked that you provide, learn the new regulations inside and out, and create a plan for implementation. Begin communicating with your staff about implementation and rollout.

4. Budget appropriately. Create your SY20-21 budget and determine whether additional costs will be incurred in terms of materials, equipment, labor and more. Budget for these expenditures.

5. Staff appropriately. What will your staffing levels need to be to plan, prepare and execute lunch in the classroom safely? How do your new needs differ from current staffing levels? Will your foodservice team manage the logistics, or will teachers be expected to play a role?

6. Assess the equipment needs for classroom service. What equipment do you currently have available and will that suffice for in-classroom service and delivery? Assess whether new equipment purchases may be necessary, i.e. additional rolling carts, etc.

Plan your menus for several weeks. This item will take a lot of thought. You will need to assess whether you will have an offer versus serve method for meals and components. Will you provide individually wrapped items? You will want to create menus that students will want to purchase yet still maintain your delivery processes and adhere to your budget. Hold conversations with your distributor sales representative to ensure product availability as well.

Download 2-week sample menus for

Lunch in the Classroom

8. Consider new sanitation protocols. Assess what new packaging methods you will need to ensure food is provided in a safe manner, and how staff who may be serving the meals need to protect both themselves and others from potential contamination or spread of disease.

9. Determine how meals will be ordered and recorded. Will classroom teachers take on responsibility for submitting meal orders, or will parents/students order online ahead of time? Does your current point of sale allow for these new touchpoints? Who will be responsible for ensuring that meals are reimbursable, and how will the money be collected? Do teachers need to be trained on rosters and meal claiming?

10. Be mindful of food waste. As always, have a plan for keeping food waste and packaging waste to a minimum. Examine how your new service methods and/or products can be provided with the least amount of waste possible.

How My K12 Resource Can Help

If you are already serving breakfast-in-classroom (BIC), you’re a step ahead of the curve! But you won’t be able to completely replicate your BIC program for serving lunch in the classroom. My K12 Resource sets up your Classroom Service/Classroom Dining for post-covid-19 school lunch success, and we can help your team on each and every of the ten steps outlined above.

We specialize in:

  • Helping you create a plan for Classroom Service/Classroom Dining success

  • Creating meal plans and menus that are financially sound

  • Assisting with your procurement needs, including produce

  • Setting you up for success to serve meals in classroom – taking equipment, labor and more into account

  • Training your staff on best practices for implementing lunch in the classroom

Your dedicated coach will strategize with you to help you navigate the new lunch-in-classroom mandates. We lead professional development training sessions for your staff so that they learn every element of the program as well. Contact us to get started!

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