COVID-19 BEST PRACTICES

Helping Hands Ending Hunger’s Operational Plan has from inception focused on food safety and protective measures to preserve the condition of donated food and minimalize risk to the fullest extent possible. An important distinction for schools, our program is NOT a share table in the ordinary sense but rather a food donation/distribution program. Share tables permit immediate student-to-student sharing of food items during or following meal periods, without sanitizing precautions. HHEH’s program, by contrast, precludes immediate student sharing of food (students are not permitted to take food items donated to HHEH during meal periods).  Indeed, HHEH offers the protections of time, distance, and refrigeration of food items before distribution. Further, while we operate within the school setting, HHEH affords protection from liability for schools under federal law (Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Distribution Act 42 USC s. 1791) with additional formal Release from Liability documentation required to be signed by HHEH participants. HHEH’s model provides the added benefit of not just giving students “extra” food on top of a complete, nutritious, calorie-guided meal (as share tables do), but rather gives students and their families the food when they need it the most—when they are not in school and otherwise would go without.

With the existence of coronavirus now in our communities, we have developed additional protective measures so that food donation can continue to help food insecure families, because, now more than ever, the need is significant. Like other food donation programs currently operating supported by regional food banks, we have collaborated with our food partners to confirm our best practices not only meet but exceed established protocols. These procedures are drafted broadly to accommodate traditional (in cafeteria) and non-traditional (in classroom or other) food service. Recognizing that we must balance students’ need for food and reduction of food waste with safety, our intent is to conduct additional training when schools reopen  to review and enforce these protocols to further help ensure the safety of the children and families we serve and continue to minimize risk, so that our program can successfully  operate not only in current school chapters but new school chapters that desire to come on line.

Procedures:

  • Maintain supplies of soap, hand sanitizer, food-safe wash, cleaning products, and paper towels for HHEH program operation;

  • Constantly reinforce good personal hygiene of student/adult HHEH leadership teams, including the requirements of handwashing and gloves, whenever food items are handled

  • Prohibit any student who is sick with any symptoms (fever, headache, cough, upset stomach, breathing/respiratory symptoms, chills, sore throat, rash, loss of taste or smell, muscle pain) from participating in food donation/collection/distribution

  • Limit numbers of students/adults participating in HHEH leadership activities at a given time and require practice of social distancing where appropriate

  • Restrict student access to HHEH food donations in designated HHEH areas in schools (in cafeteria, in classrooms, etc.)

  • Limit food handling by students as follows: (i) donated items placed in HHEH bins/containers directly by student donors/teachers/staff; (ii) a designated proctor will attend to the HHEH bins/containers during meal periods; (iii) washed hands and gloves are required to repack cold items in refrigerators/freezers; (iv) dry storage food items collected from the cafeteria are only handled with washed, gloved hands;  (v) dry storage items donated by the community are not handled for 48 hours and are only handled thereafter with washed, gloved hands; and  (vi) gloves are never reused and hands should be washed after participating in HHEH collection/distribution activities

  • Strictly prohibit students from taking food out of HHEH bins/containers for consumption during meal periods or anytime during the school day

  • All fruit items will be wiped with food-safe wash after 48 hours and before distribution

  • Participant insulated bags will not be handled except with washed, gloved hands and will not be filled for distribution unless new, or returned washed/sanitized by the participating family

  • Soap, sanitizer, and food safe wash will be provided to participating families as needed

  • Updated HHEH documentation, including checklists and food safety notices reinforcing these protocols with be distributed to schools and families

HHEH encourages schools to also follow any additional, applicable food safety procedures required by school nutrition. Our focus this year will be flexibility, understanding that meal service may limit student choice and include bagged meals. We can adjust protocols to meet each school’s particular requirements. While our goal remains to collect all unopened food that can be repurposed, remember this general principle:  when it doubt, throw it out!

Remember, we are in this together, and HHEH will depend on each school to be vigilant in following these protocols understanding that HHEH has a zero-tolerance policy for violations. PLEASE immediately report ANY issues of concern to Carla Harward so that they may be properly addressed.

 

THANK YOU!

 

Updated:  July 1, 2020

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