June marks National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, and what better way to celebrate than incorporating delicious produce into your school’s meals? Central offers a plethora of products that make it easy for schools to handle fresh fruits and veggies for students from washing and prepping to serving and storage.
Handling Fresh Produce in Schools
The National Food Service Management Institute details their best practices for handing fresh fruits and vegetables in schools, but they are the best practices that any foodservice operation facility could use to follow proper protocol for produce.
Washing and Preparation
Inspect the produce for signs of soil or damage before prepping for further use. If you see affected areas, cut them off or just simply do not use them and avoid the risk! A sharp knife will actually increase employee and safety, and get the job done right! Vegetable brushes are also a great investment to help scrub off dirt and spots on produce.
Don’t forget to actually wash the produce under continuous running water or use a chemical disinfectant. Never soak produce or store it in standing water.
If you receive packaged produce that says it’s ready to eat, washed or pre washed, do not rewash the produce.
There are a variety of food prep appliances that can get the job done while cutting the time it takes in half. Options range from slicing, dicing, chopping or sectioning. If you want apples sectioned out in seconds, or lettuce conveniently chopped for the salad bar, these appliances will make food prep a breeze!
Finally, it’s important to wash all the equipment, utensils and food contact surfaces that came into contact with your washed produce. Keep these things clean and sanitized for the next use. NFSMI recommends rinsing, sanitizing and air-drying each item before use.
Proper hand washing techniques must be implied to ensure clean, fresh produce that’s safe to eat for everyone! Some might think this is a no brainer, but, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling or prepping fruits and vegetables. Remember to rewash your hands after using the restroom, sneezing, coughing or handing anything that’s not produce.
Use gloves or a utensil when touching ready to eat produce – but remember, you must still wash your hands properly. If you use disposable gloves, change them anytime they could have become contaminated in between tasks. Never wash or reuse disposable gloves, and change them if they are torn or damaged.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into your school is to serve them on a cold food bar, or display them in an attractive way. This is a popular choice, but it’s important to make sure it’s a safe one, too!
Creating a pretty display is definitely worth the effort, but do not store produce in direct contact with ice or water while on a salad bar or serving line. Place fruits and veggies in a beautiful display bowl or platter and then on ice! Leave out cut produce for a maximum time of four hours, after that it needs to back into refrigeration or in containers surrounded by ice.
NSFMI details how to create a safe salad bar and self-service lines by following these tips:
- Protect food with sneeze guards or food shields in a direct line between the food and the mouth or nose, usually 14 to 18 inches above the food.
- Use cleaned and sanitized long-handled tongs, spoons and ladles so bare hands do not touch food and the utensils do not drop into serving pans.
- Change utensils periodically.
- Set up the salad bar or self-service line as close to mealtime as possible to reduce the time that produce sets out.
- Keep cold foods at or below 41°F in a refrigeration unit or surrounded by ice
- Monitor and document the internal temperature of self-service items every 30 minutes as with other foods on the service lines.
- Clean up spills promptly. Wiping cloths should be stored in sanitizing solution and laundered daily.
- Teach children salad bar etiquette. Assign an adult to monitor the salad bar and self-service line to make sure the customers – especially children – are not touching food with their hands, tasting food while in line, putting their heads under the sneeze guards or returning food items.
- Clearly label all salad dressings and other containers to discourage tasting.
- Never add freshly prepared food to food already on salad bars and self-service lines.
Always keep fresh fruit and vegetables at the right recommended temperature, whether it be refrigeration or in a dry atmosphere. Store produce in a covered container, at least six inches off the floor and above items that might cause contamination. Mark dates on when you receive the product, when it’s been cut and when to throw it out by.
We’ve Got What You Need
Central has everything you need to celebrate national fresh fruit and vegetable month all year long! From food prep equipment all the way to storage containers, you can find it with us. If you’re a little confused as to how to properly prep your produce or set up a suitable buffet or food bar, give one of our helpful Product Consultants a call at 800-215-9293 or chat with them live!
Featured image photo credit: USDAgov