Master-Bilt® Refrigeration News & Product Information
School Foodservice Refrigeration Guide
Serving healthy meals that kids will eat while staying within nutrition and budget guidelines poses enormous challenges for school foodservice personnel. Having the right equipment in the kitchen and on the serving lines can make a big difference in meeting these challenges. In this article, we’ll look at different pieces of refrigeration equipment and how they help solve the big issues like food safety, energy savings and space utilization.
Perhaps no other piece of refrigeration equipment is more identified with schools than the milk cooler. For decades, schools have depended on these coolers to keep milk at a safe, consistent temperature.
Even though you may be familiar with milk coolers, there are some features and benefits you may not have considered. For example, since the doors are likely going to be open for long periods at a time, you’ll need a powerful refrigeration system to ensure consistent cooling. Additionally, look for standard corner bumpers that add protection from daily usage as well as heavy-duty floor racks to hold up to the weight of all that stored milk. Remember, for safety’s sake, make sure the doors fold back and lock. And, for the greatest efficiency, consider a dual access model which enables the serving of two lines at once.
Open Air Merchandisers
In most schools these days, there’s an ever-increasing time crunch. Lunchroom personnel have less time to prepare meals and students have less time to enjoy them. Adding an open air merchandiser to a serving line provides time-saving grab-and-go access to pre-made meals. You can also offer more fresh food options like fruit and salads. Open air merchandisers are available in horizontal and vertical models depending on volume needs.
Walk-In Coolers & Freezers
If your workflow and volume require buying food in bulk, you’ll need adequate storage space. That’s where a walk-in comes in. Coolers, freezers or combination models can be configured however you need to fit your application. A popular option with many schools are factory pre-assembled models. They are an easy addition to a school kitchen and, since they are also portable, so they can be relocated to a different school if needed.
There’s a nearly unlimited number of options you can use to make a walk-in more efficient and convenient. Here are just a few ideas:
- Electronic controllers for refrigeration systems can help you save on your electrical bill while allowing you to monitor your system and adjust settings remotely.
- Light management/door alarm systems will automatically turn off lights inside when no one’s inside and will warn you when doors are left open – two of the biggest energy wasters in walk-ins.
- To make the most use of your walk-in space, use shelving to provide additional stacking space. Welded wire, plastic and solid shelving is available.
- If you have a high volume operation with a lot of deliveries via carts or pallet jacks, you’ll need a structural floor. These floors also provide maximum weight support for items stored on shelves.
- Floor ramps are also a necessity if you’re rolling carts into and out of a walk-in.
- Doors probably take the most abuse of any part of a walk-in, so make sure you have a heavy-duty one that will hold up to constant use.
- Kickplates are a good idea to help protect doors and walls against damage.
- A view window on the door lets you quickly see what’s inside without having to open the door and let in warmer air.
- If your door stays open a lot, strip curtains will help hold in the cold air while allowing easy in and out access.
Reach-In Coolers & Freezers
In almost every kitchen, you’ll see a reach-in cooler, freezer or both. They frequently act as cold storage center between the walk-in and the production area and help reduce the number of trips to the walk-in for food items. In smaller work spaces, a reach-in may be the sole cold storage option. In either case, the reach-in provides quick access to ingredients needed to prepare all kinds of meals. Determining the correct combination of size, features and options needed for your application can speed up your workflow and even help reduce your energy usage.
Blast Chillers & Freezers
In schools, as in any foodservice operation, food safety is the number one priority and blast chilling/freezing is one of the best ways to avoid contamination. Poor cooling techniques are a major cause of foodborne illness. To avoid contamination, food must be cooled through the danger zone of 140°F to 40°F in less than four hours. Blast chillers and freezers are designed to chill foods to under 40°F in 90 minutes or less, depending on food type, improving food safety by minimizing microbial activity. In addition to food safety, blast chillers/freezers offer additional advantages including increased labor efficiency, increased food freshness and nutritional value as well as reduced spoilage.
As freshly prepared sandwiches and salads are becoming a standard part of many menus, prep tables are increasing in importance. If you don’t have one, chances are you will soon, and you should consider a few things before selecting one. To begin with, prep tables should have enough storage and work space to keep up with daily volume. Mega top versions offer an extra row of pans for added capacity. Additionally, tables with a flat lid option offer multi-function capability. When the top is closed, you have an extra work table and prep area. The flat lid can also be completely removed for more convenient access to pans. Prep tables also need to fit into your limited workspace. Look for one that has a front-breathing refrigeration system that allows you to integrate it into existing counters.
Rack Refrigeration Systems
Rack refrigeration systems allow you to combine individual refrigeration systems of your equipment into one remotely located system. By remoting systems, including those in reach-ins, walk-ins and ice machines, you can remove heat produced by multiple refrigeration systems from the kitchen and reduce air conditioning load which will, in turn, reduce your electrical bill. These outside systems, typically roof-mounted, also reduce noise level and extend the life of equipment. Systems can be equipped with electronic controls allowing you to access functions remotely for more efficient operation and servicing.