Back in April, I was hopeful July would bring good news about less spread of coronavirus.

Unfortunately, some people didn’t get the memo, that even though business and restaurants were opening up, you still had to distance from people and wash your hands.

We now know that being in groups and physically close to people encourages the spread. On the other hand, staying 6 feet away from people and wearing a mask, significantly reduces the chance of spread. So I hope you can do these 3 things: Wear a mask when in indoor public spaces, don’t touch your face (or others), wash your hands often, and maintain a 6-foot distance from anyone not in your household.

How About a Picnic?

Just because we have to alter our behavior, doesn’t mean we can’t socialize. With our current need to stay physically distanced from one another, al fresco dining is a great option. Old fashioned picnics can be a fun way to bring a small group together in the fresh air, and still enjoy each other’s company while distancing and staying healthy.

Socializing is an important part of our overall health. A lack of social contact can interfere with our mindset, and even have a physiologic impact on our bodies. A bring-your-own-picnic party is one solution!

Be Aware of Your Environment

Check your local area’s virus spread and public health guidelines. Be sure the group size is reasonable for your area, and encourage everyone to maintain physical distance. As host, you can invite a few friends over and enjoy a casual meal outdoors in your backyard, on the patio or porch. You can also meet at a park or a beach, if they’re open.

Always keep food safety in mind too. Check out this resource and follow these basic food safety tips:

  1. Keep everything clean! Clean hands, clean surfaces, clean utensils, clean bowls and containers, clean cutting boards.
  2. Keep cold foods cold (40°F), and hot foods hot (140°F). You can use separate coolers for hot and cold foods. A cooler will hold hot temp too.
  3. Separate, don’t cross contaminate! Use clean cutting boards and surfaces. One for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.

How-Tos For a Bring-Your-Own-Picnic Gathering

  1. Invite a few people over, ideally limiting guests to a total of 10 (or max of 25).
  2. Use blankets for each family or set up chairs with individual small tables spaced out in the yard or on the patio.
  3. Ask everyone to bring their own unbreakable glassware and eating utensils (or you can provide plasticware).
  4. The host will provide napkins, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizing gel.
  5. The host can also provide an easy to serve entree and side dish – Grilled meats or a main dish salad. Baked and breaded chicken can be made ahead and served cold for a picnic. Portion out side dishes into small individual servings. In lieu of that, each guest can provide their own wrapped sandwich and side. Or hey, you can also just do healthy take-out food.
  6. Be sure there are serving utensils for everyone, so that serving utensils aren’t shared. In lieu of that, you can just ask everyone to use their unused fork to grab their food.
  7. Of course be sure to include fruits and veggies. My Very Veggie Pasta Salad packs up well for a picnic. Sliced watermelon wedges can be easily picked up and eaten without cross-contamination. Snip grapes into easy to grab small clusters so nobody touches others’ portion. Place fresh cherries into small cups for everyone to grab. Or just place out a bowl of fresh nectarines.
  8. Mind the chip bowl! If it’s just your family members (who live with you), a bowl of chips may be okay. But if it’s others, then opt for either pouring the chips into individual bowls or offering 1-ounce bags of chips for everyone to take.
  9. Consider individual desserts like ice cream or frozen fruit bars, wrapped cookies or muffins, or allow the host to plate up pie or brownies (with clean hands of course!).

Keep your hands clean at all times. Wear masks when needed. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

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