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Eating Out-of-Home in the Time of COVID-19

Around 4 out of 10 Filipino adults 19 to 59 years old are out-of-home eaters.

This is according to the food consumption component of the 8th National Nutrition Survey (NNS) in 2013 by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).

Additional data from the DOST-FNRI Food Establishments Survey (FES), a component of the Local Level Food, Health and Nutrition Survey (LFHNS) conducted from 2016 to 2017, also revealed that majority of these adults were younger adults 19 to 29 years old who mostly belong to the workforce.

In mid-March of 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte imposed an Enhanced Community Quarantine over the entire Luzon, including the National Capital Region (NCR), leaving most employees with no other choice but to work from home.

The Telegraph (UK) even dubbed the Philippines as the country with the longest lockdown, as restrictions are enforced until now.

Prolonged challenges and risks linked to COVID-19 has been causing pandemic fatigue for many people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Indeed, eating out-of-home has affected not only those who are fond of going out, but also business establishments.

Today, only partial lockdowns based on the recommendations of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) are implemented across the country.

As previous stringent restrictions are gradually eased, the number of people who are eating out-of-home to beat the pandemic fatigue is dramatically increasing.

However, with the rise in the number of individuals eating out-of-home, there is also a possibility for COVID-19 cases to increase.

Thus, minimum public health standards and protocols should still be observed when going outside of our homes.

The latest IATF guidelines released in December 2020 stated that: ”…dine-in restaurants, fast food and food retail establishments, including those in supermarkets, grocery stores, and food preparation establishments should only be at a maximum of fifty percent (50%) seating capacity”.

Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States suggests the adoption of appropriate ventilation systems for establishments to avoid airborne transmission of COVID-19.

Moreover, there should be single entry and exit points to avoid crowding, as well as physical barriers for individuals to remain at least six feet apart.

It is also advised to clean and disinfect surfaces, use disposable utensils, and provide physical barriers between seats, along with designated washing areas.

Although establishments follow the recommended measures, it is still important for all to observe proper wearing of face mask and face shield, as well as frequent hand washing and disinfection to avoid the further spread of COVID-19.

Aside from the recommended health measures, the DOST-FNRI also encourages to follow the Pinggang Pinoy® an easy-to-understand visual tool to help Filipinos adopt healthy eating habits at meal times especially in the time of COVID-19.

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