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School Nutrition Bulletin - For Food Service Workers - Staying Safe

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Announcement from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) School Nutrition Team


SchoolMealsNews Bulletin - For Food Service Workers - Staying Safe

The health and safety of food service workers is of critical importance for their own well-being, but also for the well-being of the children that they serve. Please review the resources and suggestions below to promote worker and customer safety. Creating a plan of action or adding strategies to the school’s existing plan of action is a great way to be prepared moving forward.

The following resources will assist schools in managing meal programs during the current health emergency in a manner that will focus on the health and safety of staff. Schools are also encouraged to contact DPI School Nutrition Team staff with questions. Thank you for your efforts to feed children during this crisis.

Staff Health and Illness Reporting

It is important that food service workers know to self-monitor their own health, report symptoms to supervisors, and self-quarantine for 14 days if symptoms are present. Staff should not, under any circumstances, report to work if feeling ill or presenting with symptoms. Guidance from the resources below may be used to train staff. Be sure that staff members are also informed of any school-specific or local health reporting requirements. Specific questions regarding COVID-19 illness, symptoms, and reporting should be directed to the local health department.

Food Safety

Food safety is always a top priority when preparing and serving food. Particular attention should be paid to proper handwashing, single-use glove usage, and staff hygiene. Staff training and reminders on these topics are recommended. Please refer to the FDA’s Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 linked below.

Print Resources from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The resources found at the link below may be printed and displayed in the workplace to communicate key information on COVID-19.

U.S. Department of Education Resources

Resources specific to the school setting and school personnel can be found at the link below.

Social Distancing During Meal Preparation and Service

Consider ways to minimize close person-to-person contact and maximize social distancing during meal preparation and service.

Multi-Meal Distribution

  • School Food Authorities (SFAs) may provide meals for households for up to one week at a time. In doing so, there are several things to consider. If milk or other items need to be refrigerated, remember that some families may not have the space to store all of those items properly. Families could be given the option as to how many meals they wish to take on the day(s) you serve, if space/storage at home is a concern. SFAs may consider planning menus that include shelf-stable items if that will make multi-meal distribution easier.

Bulk Food

  • Food may be provided to households in a “bulk” manner if a menu is provided, which includes the specific items that were planned and prepared for specific meals. Any further written preparation, food safety, or portion size instructions should also be included to ensure households know what was provided for each meal. For example, a grocery bag may include all the meal components for breakfast and lunch for a five-day period, along with the planned menu and preparation/storage instructions for households.

Foods for Families to Heat at Home

  • SFAs may choose to send precooked, frozen food items as part of the meals for the households to heat at home prior to consuming. This could include USDA Foods commodity products and Wisconsin state processed products. If these types of precooked, frozen items will be served, they must be distributed with clear cooking instructions for the household to follow, including directions to heat the food to an internal temperature of 165℉ before consuming. For frozen items, the SFA should also communicate safe storage guidelines if the foods will not be prepared and eaten immediately. Safe storage guidelines for items intended to be heated at home should advise that the foods be held at 41℉ or below (or kept frozen, if applicable) until used. Please reference the DPI Child Nutrition Programs Q & A, as this resource is regularly updated. Finally, your local health department/sanitarian has the final authority on issues related to food safety, and we at DPI recommend you contact your local health department/sanitarian for further guidance as needed.

Meal Pick-Up Methods

  • Consider how the CDC’s prevention strategies, particularly those pertaining to close contact with others, could be applied to meal distribution. If possible, food service staff should maintain six feet of space from those picking up meals. For example, staff could place bags on a table in a neutral zone for families to pick up. Food service staff should stand at least six feet away to check off meals. Remind families as they are picking up meals to practice social distancing with each other. One suggestion is to place a marker, such as a piece of tape or a sign on the floor, at the six feet mark so everyone knows the six foot boundary.

Staff Work Teams

  • DPI’s school nurse consultant recommends:
    • Schools should consider setting up different teams for meal preparation and/or distribution. Schools with limited food service staff may be able to utilize volunteers or other school staff to assist as needed or be part of the separate teams. For example:
      • If Team A works Monday, Wednesday, and Friday then Team B works Tuesday and Thursday.
      • If one team needs to stop working for 14 days, then the other team can take over for all days Monday through Friday.
      • Small teams are better than one or two large teams.

Social Distancing From Other Staff

Please Be Safe -- You make a difference every day!

-WI DPI School Nutrition Team


This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

This is a communication from the WI Department of Public Instruction, School Nutrition Team.
You can contact the School Nutrition Team at To subscribe to schoolmealsnews, please send an email to #WISchoolMealsRock