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Changes made to the way lunch is made, served to elementary students during pandemic


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    KEIZER, Oregon (KPTV) — Kids may be back inside the classroom, but it’s far from business as usual. Much has changed, including how lunch is made and served to students.

In the latest Keizer Strong segment, FOX 12 looks at how kids are eating safely during the pandemic.

“We can no longer offer the buffet-style meals where students could, you know, go through a salad bar or go through a cafeteria and kind of pick what they want,” said Kaitlin Combest.

Combest is the Policy and Business Analyst for the Salem-Keizer School District. One of her roles is making sure schools follow health and safety protocols when serving food during the pandemic.

“Each school kind of does something different,” said Combest. “So, some students are eating in their classrooms and some are either eating in a cafeteria or a library.”

“We try and give them opportunities to customize the program for each school, whatever works for them,” continued Combest.

At Keizer Elementary, the food is now delivered to their classrooms.

“We really don’t want to do sharing of utensils and really want to minimize common touch points, especially when kids are eating and so we’ve had to move away from kids having a lot of choices and options and we have had to kind of give them a bag of a meal, so that they can still get a good meal, but not touch as many things,” said Combest.

Combest said handing out meals this way is nothing new for Keizer staff preparing the food. Since the pandemic hit last year, they had to switch gears by offering grab and go meals for students and parents to pick up from the school each day.

“I think during this pandemic, being able to continuously get meals at the school has been one of the common factors that has allowed students to feel a little bit more normalcy throughout this whole thing,” said Combest. “They really look forward to coming to the school and grabbing their meals and seeing the faces they know.”

At Keizer Elementary, switching out the lunch tray for a sack lunch hasn’t been a problem. Many of the kids are just happy to be back at school, even if things look a little different.

“It’s hard to not want to give them all a hug and a high five and, you know, do all the things we’re used to doing and so it’s been a challenge and a change, but it’s for the better and we really enjoyed the opportunity to constantly be out there for these kids.”

Kids who decided to stick with virtual learning and not come back to school are still able to come by and grab a sack lunch each day.

Grab and go meals will continue to be offered throughout the summer as well, at certain schools.

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