The Green Desk

Having a Picnic

How can we eat outside and still meet licensing and/or ECERS requirements?

We are concerned with hand washing, family style dining, etc. (Having a picnic can be a lot of fun.)

From the North Carolina Rated License Assessment Project:
All of the health requirements still apply for outdoors and since tables outside usually cannot be cleaned/sanitized properly, table cloths may be used to cover wooden picnic tables. Handwashing is required so programs may figure out a way to have running water outdoors or have the picnic first so children wash hands and head to the tables right away before playing. Remember that if having a picnic causes some challenges to the regular sanitation practices, a lower score on a single ERS item will not greatly impact the overall average score across all items. So, higher scores in other items will balance out a lower score in the meals/snacks item.

From the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education:
Handwashing and a table cloth should address any licensing concerns.

From the North Carolina Children’s Environmental Health Branch:
When food service is provided in the OLE, food shall be protected, stored, prepared and served in accordance to 15A NCAC 18A.2806, 2807 & 2808. Employees and children shall wash their hands in accordance with 2803 and food service tables shall be cleaned or covered prior to use.

Overview from the North Carolina Outdoor Learning Environments Alliance:

Anything you can do inside, you can do outside – but it may take some planning and forethought to do it in an early care and education setting. Picnics are a good example. The good news is that once the system is worked out, it is easy to repeat and even make having a picnic a regular practice. We often rush through meal time to move on to the next activity. Just taking the care and time to be outdoors to eat creates a more relaxing environment for appreciating food. It is a wonderful way to have time for conversations about the things children are seeing and hearing and clean-up is much easier outdoors.

*This post is from a series of FAQ about child care outdoor learning environment regulations in North Carolina. Please see the intro post, here, for more information.