Meals to Go: Creatively adapting food services during a pandemic

Published on : 8/30/21
  • Overview

    The past two years have been challenging and many businesses have had to adapt their business model to continue operation during the pandemic. How do you adapt your food service offering on campus while maintaining quality and complying to COVID-19 safety protocols? And furthermore, how do you comply with safety protocols without compromising on sustainability and students tastes?

    Sodexo Canada operates the cafeteria at York House School, an all-girls K-12 independent day school in Vancouver, British Columbia. We have been on site for 11 years. All food is prepared in a small commercial kitchen for both Junior and Senior schools, which are located in two separate buildings.

    Creating menu items that are delicious and nutritious is the cafeteria’s number one priority. We have adapted over the years to food trends and students’ tastes: simplifying their hot lunches, offering more vegan and gluten-free options, making all the salad dressing fresh in-house, and upgrading the salad bar to the “Bowl Bar.”

    Sustainability is also a priority in the cafeteria. There is a focus on serving items that are local, seasonal, and waste-free. Sodexo participates in school events to further educate our students about the food they eat and teach them about how and what to recycle in the cafeteria.

    Another way to help reduce the school’s environmental impact is the introduction of ‘Meatless Mondays’ and by using ingredients that are high in nutrition and are full of flavour in students’ daily meals.

    “It is no secret that the staff and student body are very happy with the variety of plant based, vegan foods and locally sourced ingredients in our meals” - Chef Neil Jamieson, General Manager - Education Segment.



    Adapting the food service offering at York House School while maintaining quality and complying to COVID-19 safety protocols was a challenge that had to be overcome and general manager and chef, Neil Jamieson, creatively came up with a solution: Meals to Go.

    The previous retail model would not work during the pandemic, so they had to adapt it to a pre-order model and have the meals delivered to the classroom in order to comply with COVID-19 restrictions and limited spacing in the cafeteria.

    As part of the changes to our daily life brought about by COVID-19, the demand for single-use cutlery has increased. However, the extensive use of disposable plastic utensils goes against their sustainability goals.



    A COVID-19 Safety Plan was created and approved by the client and local public health. Sodexo Canada worked with the client's facilities team to rearrange furniture, organize traffic flow and install physical barriers to respect social distancing.

    Instead of increasing the use of plastic cutlery, compostable single-use products were implemented as this is not only important for safety during a pandemic, but it is also important to fight climate change. The majority of the take-away containers are made out of PLA Bioplastic, which is processed from the starch of plants such as sugar cane, trees and corn, and it is designed to eventually go back into the soil.

    “This was a challenging year at school, and we all had to adapt to the Covid-19 protocols. I am extremely thankful that we have a wonderful, diligent and well-organized Chef and kitchen staff who always made everyone feel safe and welcomed in the cafeteria. Personally, I am very pleased with the variety of hot meals that are offered in the cafeteria this year.” - Alexis Lum, Senior French teacher at York House School  

    By the numbers/Stats

    • 11 years operating food service at York House School
    • Meals to Go:
      • Christmas take-out: approximately 600 meals, 50 families
      • Spring break take-out: approximately 300 meals, 30 families
      • Year End take-out: approximately 200 meals, 20 families
    • 10% plastic reduction and increased quality of eco-friendly products, especially cutlery.



    Our Food Services team at York House School were able to adapt to and address the ever-changing needs of the students, teachers and staff in a safe and timely manner, providing service to our customers with minimal interruption even during an unexpected pandemic scenario.

    Chef Jamieson was able to provide some relief for all home cooks within the school’s community by offering Meals to Go and creating simple cooking videos. On the school’s social media channels, they have created a series of chef-lead instructional videos with themes like kitchen essentials and how to prepare poached eggs.

    Apart from complying to the new safety measures set due to the pandemic, they discovered a new revenue stream in Meals to Go, which allowed them to capture revenue outside of their operating hours.

    Learn more about our immersive and innovative food experiences on campus.