global icon

What K-12 Foodservice Looks Like This Fall



K-12 school cafeterias are going to look a lot different for the 2020-21 school year due to coronavirus (COVID-19). The CDC recommends that students bring lunch from home as often as possible, but we know that’s not always an option for families. With more than 50% of students across the US eligible for free or reduced lunch, you’ll need to serve a good portion of your student body each day.

With increased sanitary guidelines, potential staffing issues and increasingly tight budgets on the horizon, there are different foodservice packaging options that can help you address each concern in relation to your district’s meal program.


To help maintain healthy environments, the CDC recommends using disposable foodservice items. A study by Silliker, Inc. revealed that reusable foodservice items can have up to 4x more bacteria than single-use foodservice items. 

If you are operating with reduced cafeteria staff due to budget restrictions or additional sick leave, single-serve containers, cups and cutlery can offer some relief. Reducing the amount of dishes that need washed – especially with updated, strict handling instructions – can help keep your cafeteria efficient.

Additionally, disposable foodservice items can provide an extra layer of safety to students with food allergies. Individual portion containers, most of which are easily marked up or labeled, can help prevent cross-contamination, especially as meals are served in the classroom.


Lunchroom staff will need to prep food in a different way. Instead of bulk dishes and serving up portions one at a time, cafeterias will need to become efficient spaces that prepare meals ahead of time for delivery to schools and individual classrooms.

Items like two-piece containers can help make your prep space efficient. Similarly, hinged-lid containers eliminate the need to hunt down the matching pieces for every item served. From salads and sandwiches to soup and mac & cheese, an efficient packaging layout will help your lunchroom staff make the most of food, time and budgets.

Though you may not be serving cafeteria/buffet style anymore, you can still take advantage of buying in bulk, if you have the available staff. Carrots, apples and sides of all sorts fit nicely into portion and snack containers to complement full meals or stock grab ‘n’ go stations. Portion containers help serve up the right amount of fruits, veggies, grains and other nutritional standards so that each student receives a healthy, balanced meal.


Some schools will be prepping meals in the same building where they will be served, while others will operate from a commissary or some other central location. One thing’s for sure though – each student’s food will have to make moves.

Look for containers that are made for transportation. Lidded containers will keep food sanitary as it travels, but also help prevent leaks and spills. Stackable containers will be especially critical here to make the most of vehicle and cart space to get meals from point A to point B. And with kids in the classroom nearly all day, lids will help keep their learning space a bit cleaner.

As you consider your foodservice packaging needs for the fall, be sure to account for potential outbreaks as in-person instruction resumes. Consider this:

  • How quickly can you switch from in-building meals to curbside pickup?
  • Can the items you use to serve in a classroom easily transfer into pickup meals?
  • Do you have the right plates, bowls and containers to make sure your students are fed if you’re taking a hybrid approach (such as staggering virtual and in-person instruction)?

All of these considerations will help you stock appropriately and efficiently to ensure meal program continuity in the upcoming school year. But we know that identifying the right container for your district – and your budget – can be an overwhelming task, especially in addition to all the other considerations for resuming school this fall.

Dart can help. Browse our suggested foodservice products for education or reach out to one of our expert sales reps to learn more. We can provide samples and help you develop a customized food and beverage packaging plan for the 2020-21 school year to keep your students well-fed and ready to learn.

Get tips delivered to your inbox!

Dart uses the information you provide to contact you about our relevant content, products and news. You may unsubscribe at any time. For more information, check out our Privacy Policy.

* indicates required
Do You Currently Purchase Dart Products?