As parents around the country eagerly await to safely send their children back to school, grade school administrators are reimagining how their school’s campus will look like in the future now that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned school operations upside down.

Administrators will have to implement all new guidelines to reduce the spread of coronavirus on campus such as lowering classroom attendance, require all faculty and students to wear face masks on campus, and upgrade the school’s custodial services. However, many schools still do not have a plan for serving lunch to students in a safe and efficient manner.

When students return to class, eating lunch will probably look drastically different. Most students will no longer wait in long lines to grab food items in packed cafeterias or pay in cash. Instead, they will likely be eating lunch six feet apart, either in their classrooms or on the yard. Since grade schools will have to adhere to many different safety measures including banning outside food, many schools will have to rely on school lunch vendors to provide daily lunch to their students.

School lunch companies across the country are now working quickly to bring new lunch alternatives that work to meet the needs and expectations of school administrators, parents, students, and teachers alike. Here are three key factors school administrators should consider when choosing a school lunch vendor.

1.    Safety

The number one priority for when children go back to school is safety of both students and staff. School lunch companies must be able to provide a hygienic, limited-contact operations model that will assure parents, students and school staff are strictly following CDC protocols to provide safe delivery and flexible distribution without sacrificing the convenience and quality of the food. In fact, California schools are already opting in for a safer lunch model that limits physical interaction.

2.    Nutritious Food

Choosing a school lunch vendor that provides nutritious foods beyond USDA’s dietary guidelines can be an academic benefit for students. A U.C. Berkeley study has shown students at schools that contract with vendors serving nutritious food end up performing better on tests. Schools should be sure to choose vendors that use clean ingredients, avoid highly processed foods, and offer a variety of highly nutritious meals parents can choose from.

3.    Seamless experience

An innovative school lunch program should be able to give parents quick, easy access and full control of their child’s school lunch menu that meets their dietary preferences and food allergies straight from their mobile device. Without any need to spend a lot of time figuring out lunch, parents should have the flexibility to order lunches days or weeks in advance and skip lunches when they are unnecessary.

As school administrators across the country continue to piece together how the future of school lunches will operate, they can find great comfort in knowing there are school lunch companies strategically and mindfully working to support them.

About the author: Keith Cosbey is COO of the school lunch company Choicelunch,