Navigating the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has required entire industries to reflect on current practices and adapt to new standards. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the K-12 and restaurant setting. Due to changes to accommodate health and safety concerns, new solutions have emerged to help schools and commercial foodservices adapt to meet these demands head on.
- Adapting the School Cafeteria to Safely Serve Lunch
- Adapting the Classroom Layout to Promote Safe Social Distancing
- Guide to Reopening K-12 Schools Amid COVID-19
One such challenge schools have faced is providing students and staff meals in a way that supports CDC guidelines, such as abiding by social distancing recommendations and efforts to reduce the risk of transmitting germs and viruses.
Key Challenges Schools Face with the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic
When the first wave of the national lockdown hit in March of 2020, it was clear schools were going to have to pivot their lunch programs. This was a universal issue across the country. In many instances, it’s schools that ensure children from impoverished families receive at least one hot meal every day. The primary concern for school administrations was how to continue that. What would this new type of service look like? How do you keep food at safe serving temperatures? How do you serve it in a manner consistent with CDC recommendations?
For starters, the inspiring dedication of school foodservice personnel who consistently go above and beyond to put the students first has helped usher in a new era of service. Many districts implemented creative solutions such as using school buses to deliver hot meals to students now studying virtually instead of in a traditional classroom setting. Some districts decided to remain open and restructure the learning environment into separate morning and afternoon sessions. Others set up curbside pickup stands. Most had to adapt to preparing single servings instead of full-on, cafeteria-style lunches. Whatever the solution districts opted for, it was the staff who stepped up to work harder than ever in unprecedented conditions to ensure children continued receiving daily meals.
A secondary concern that isn’t just unique to schools: finances. School foodservices often operate as their own business, and if that money doesn’t come in, it’s up to the districts to reimburse them. Restaurants across the country are familiar with this plight and the direct hit to their bottom line due to the pandemic and subsequent government mandates to reduce capacity or temporarily close to mitigate the spread.
A third concern: menu fatigue. No matter the foodservice, the menu drives everything. At the dawn of the lockdown, school lunches were catering more to cold food items. They were easy to package into single servings and keep at safe serving temperatures, holding well during transport. However, it didn’t take long for students to tire of eating the same type of meal every day. So, how do you offer variety while accommodating food safety?
Grab ‘N Go – the only way to go! School Solutions for Lunch Programs in a Pandemic
“Anything on wheels suddenly became king,” explains Gayle Swain, sales manager of non-commercial markets for Cambro, a leading manufacturer of innovative food prep and transport solutions. “Any piece of equipment where you could readily transport a large amount of food from point A to point B became essential. The more versatile it was, the better.”
Therefore, Grab ‘N Go solutions were the only way for most schools to go. These solutions, including portable carts, are ideal for their versatility, convenience, and ease of operation.
The Cambro Flex Stations are the ultimate grab ‘n go K-12 school solution, says Swain. “Our flex stations are designed to be easily customized to fit a variety of needs, and they’re manned by only one person, which saves on labor and assists with crowd control to limit person-to-person contact for sanitary serving.”
These grab ‘n go essentials resolve many of the above issues, regardless of how schools have transitioned to meet current challenges. For instance, if the school is still in session with split morning and afternoon classes, these can be easily maneuvered through hallways and from room to room to serve breakfast or lunch. Since they’re lightweight and don’t feature a cord and plug, they’ve become preferred over traditional insulated carts and heated holding cabinets.
If the school is currently operating part-time or fully virtual, they also assist with organized pickup and delivery operations – which makes for a beneficial solution not just for schools, but for restaurants who have adapted to offer delivery to help drive revenue.
See also: Takeout and Delivery Resources
They’re also a convenient solution to promote pre-packaged items. This enables schools to offer a larger variety to reduce menu fatigue and an opportunity for a-la-carte upselling to assist with financial concerns.
In addition to their customization and versatility, Cambro Flex Stations are easy to store when not in use and come in one box. Different sizes are available, and users can even build their own! Furthermore, as needs change they can continue to be customized by adding additional accessories, such as shelf plates, can racks, and more. They can transform into something totally different!
Since the posts and traverses are constructed with a steel core and smooth polypropylene exterior, they offer superior strength and performance for years of use. And they won’t rust, a unique benefit compared to traditional shelving and portable carting solutions! Cambro even offers a lifetime warranty against rust and corrosion on their mobile flex station units.
Cambro Flex Station Add-Ons
Additional supplies can help make your grab ‘n go operation a success. Cambro’s variety of GoBox® food and beverage transporters are professional-grade insulated carriers constructed of high-tech, expanded polypropylene (EPP) which makes them amazingly light and incredibly durable while keeping hot or cold food at safe holding temperatures for more than four hours.
The Cambro GoBox® Insulated Milk Box is perfect for K-12 schools, holding one 13”x13” milk crate with 70 half-pint milk cartons and features an adjustable strap and ergonomic handles for comfortable, hassle-free transport.
Beverage holders for Cambro GoBoxes are also available to ensure safe and secure transfer of drinks.
You can also utilize sheet pans and plastic food pans to outfit your Cambro Flex Station to display sanitary, pre-packaged food items. Insulated delivery bags also assist in delivering fresh meals to students, and bun pan racks and food carrier dollies can help to lighten the load to enable faster transport.
See also: Top-Selling Grab ‘N Go Resources
- Repurpose Your School Equipment to Meet COVID-19 Challenges
- Where Should You Place Hand Washing and Sanitizing Stations in Your School?
- Handheld Foggers and Misters: A More Efficient Way to Sanitize
Connect directly with one of our product experts for help outfitting your own Grab ‘N Go station.
Chase joined Central Restaurant Products in February 2016 as a Content Specialist, bringing to the role years of various foodservice experience, including front-of-house service (slingin’ chicken wings and libations with a smile on his face) and back-of-house food prep using heavy-duty commercial cooking equipment to prepare for peak dining hours at his university’s dining hall.
He puts this experience to use writing for Central’s Resource Center, website, and print catalog. ServSafe certified, he enjoys educating on food safety in the commercial setting, researching new dining room and tabletop trends, and sharing innovative solutions to enhance operational efficiencies. He also enjoys (in no specific order) long hikes with his dog, bingeing 90s sitcoms, red wine, and live music.