I’ve been getting emails from my son’s elementary school saying that they plan on having some form of in-school instruction come September (knocks on wood). Some of the new regulations to ensure that happens are things like requiring masks, limiting the number of kids who can interact with each other, and social distancing.
There is obviously no perfect solution, and there are still a ton of unknowns, but my son is excited at the prospect of going back to school and hanging out with his friends. (Plus, teacher dad is not his favorite.)
My big question is around how schools will handle activities outside of the sit-down classroom. Specifically for the purposes of The Spoon, how will the school handle the cafeteria and lunch? Facemasks can’t be worn by kiddos while they are eating. Talking (read: yelling) will be tough six feet apart. And kids, well, will be kids.
Do they need plexiglass shields in between each kid? Individually packaged meals? Should they eat outside? (Though here in the Pacific Northwest, that’s only possible until October.)
I write about companies doing innovative things to battle this pandemic every day. Robots delivering meals. Vending machines replacing the salad bar. Mannequins to enforce social distancing in restaurants.
But none of these solutions seem to be up to the task of managing the unique chaos of a school cafeteria packed (or at reduced capacity) with a bunch of 5 – 10 year olds. Is there any way to innovate school lunch in the time of COVID-19?
The question is so broad and complex that I feel like I’m asking it into the wind because it seems like there is no answer. Maybe a Spoon reader has a better answer or at least an idea. So what do you think? What can food tech do to keep the cafeteria as safe as possible?