10 Back to School Products and Ideas for School Cafeterias

The beginning of the school year is the best time to go over standards and policies.  It’s also the time to make sure all the right tools are available to make every day a successful one.

Here are 10 products and ideas from Central to help get your cafeteria started right for the upcoming school year.

1. Food safety is critical.  All cafeteria employees should go over proper food and hand washing techniques at the beginning of the year, followed by periodic refresher meetings and posted signage.  Also, when wearing gloves, upon stepping away from a workstation, or moving on to another task (even if just for a second), dispose of the gloves immediately and put on a new pair when returning.

2. There are trays designed for a quick turnaround.  Melamine compartment trays dry the quickest and are an excellent choice for schools with a quick turnaround. Click on any of the following for more information: #17K-046, #17K-047, #17K-051 and #17K-052.

3. Planning menus in advance, and making them easy to access, helps everyone.  Can students and parents easily access your menus?  If they are only sent home with students, don’t forget about the ones who lose things easily or forget to take things home. Consider posting menus online and also having menu boards in the cafeteria. This way, everyone stays informed.

4. Cold food/salad bars are a great way to make fruits and vegetables available for children and promote healthy eating habits.  These types of food bars are really making their way into schools.  Even one of Michelle Obama’s initiatives of “Let’s Move!” includes the campaign for “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools.”  The Carlisle Six-Star food bar or Cambro Versa Bars are great choices that come in a youth height for easy access.

5. Create a rewards program to help teach students healthy eating habits.  Make sure the program doesn’t reward with more food—especially junk food.  Work with other members of the school to create incentives to eat healthier such as free time or fun activities.

6. Learning doesn’t have to stop during lunch time.  On top of promoting healthy eating habits, use meal times to inform students of your school’s green initiatives and get them involved. This can set them up to be environmentally conscious in their every day life.

7. Food allergies are very serious.  All workers should be prepared in the event of an emergency, even if you don’t have any students to your knowledge with allergies.  A student’s life can depend on it. In last week’s resources blog, we found excellent information about food allergies from the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, including this Food Action Plan.

8. When shopping, there are warranties exclusive to schools.  Keep your eye out for these. Some brands that have these special warranties are Garland, Vulcan, APW Wyott, Cres Cor, Duke and Univex. (At Central, we mention ours in our school catalogs. Feel free to contact a Product Consultant for help).

9. Keep cereal fresh.  For breakfast programs, cereal dispensers keep food fresh, save space and control portion sizes.

10. Dispose of the disposables. For flatware, both the Windsor and Dominion medium weights are great options for schools as well as our Central Exclusive Tumblers. Also, while you may not always think of ice as a disposable, have you ever considered reusable ice? It saves money and you will never have to deal with the mess regular ice can bring. Check out mat #647-001 or singles #647-002.  And if you’re in the market for a new dishwasher, the Jackson CREW44 conveyor dishwasher is one of the top picks for schools.

Don’t forget to check out last week’s resources blog to keep informed going into the school year. Also, check out our February blog “Top 10 Ways Central Can Help Your Cafeteria Go Green” if you’re looking to make your school cafeteria more eco-friendly.  Don’t forget to share your favorite products and ideas below.

Thanks to Central’s Category Managers Laura Bedillion and Elizabeth Price for providing great product suggestions.

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