Tag Archives: school cafeteria

10 Products to Update Your School Foodservice This Fall

School is back in session, and the 2012-2013 academic school year definitely began differently than any other year before it.  For many schools, this particular year presented new changes and challenges as foodservices had to adapt their menus to meet the new USDA meal guidelines.

The changes went into affect on July 1, and was the first of seven phases per the USDA’s implementation timeline.  The last phase set to be complete for the 2022-2023 school year.

The new guidelines specify amounts for fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and meat alternatives and milk and included dietary specifications to be met each week.

Because of these guidelines, portion sizes are as important as ever for schools.  This is where the right utensil can make the new guidelines much easier to adapt to.  Many of the manufacturers on Central’s website have portioners, spoodles, dishers, etc., color-coded by the ounce to make scooping the appropriate serving size quick and easy.

Looking beyond the new USDA guidelines, there are several pieces of equipment and supplies that make a school foodservice run smoothly.  Using a piece of old equipment can be less energy efficient or could make a task more difficult than it needs to be.  Upgrading old equipment and supplies can definitely provide long term savings.

10 Products and Categories to Update the School Cafeteria

Don’t hesitate to contact a Central Product Consultant at 800-215-9293 with any questions about school foodservice equipment.

Cold Food Pans and Hot Food Pans

Compartment Trays

Cooking Equipment

Dishwashing and Sanitation

Food Portioners, Dishers and Spoodles

Food Preparation

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Milk Coolers




School’s in Session! Get Your Cafeteria Through This School Year with Central

Here at Central, we specialize in every part of the foodservice industry–especially school foodservices.  Now that school is in session, we want you to know we’re here for you and have everything you need for the 2012-2013 school year.


We have an entire section of our website strictly dedicated to school products.  From there, you can browse through refrigeration, dishwashing and  cooking equipment, concession products, food prep and dining room supplies, shelving and furniture.

We’ve even compiled a small list of questions for you to answer prior to calling a Product Consultant that will help expedite the buying process on our page, Expert Solutions in School Nutrition Equipment.

Expert Help

One of the great things about Central is we always have someone on-hand to help you. Whether you’re working with a Product Consultant you’ve never worked with before, or have someone you go to every time, they are always there and ready to help.

It can be stressful trying to decide what to order because there are so many options and it can require some research.  But when you’re talking to one of Central’s Product Consultants, they’ve already done their homework so you don’t have to. They’ll know what questions to ask, which accessories you need, etc.  Just call 800-215-9293.  Phone lines are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday (EST).


Each month on the Central Blog, we include information that specifically pertains to school foodservices.  We are sure to cover major events, but also include other news stories and equipment ideas too.  (Find all of our school blogs by going to the bottom of our blog under our “From the Past” section and choose “Schools” from the “Select Category” drop-down”.  You don’t even have to select a month unless you would like to).

Most recently, when the new USDA guidelines began on July 1, we went through and compiled all the updates for the 2012-2013 school year and created the Complete Guide on New Standards for School Meals: July 1 Changes.  In addition to the USDA changes, we also included product suggestions based on those new guidelines.

We hope everyone has a great 2012-2013 school year! We look forward to working with you.


Complete Guide on New Standards for School Meals: July 1 Changes

In late January of 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsak introduced new standards for school meals.  These new guidelines will be implemented in phases all the way out to the 2022-2023 school year, with the first phase beginning on July 1 for the 2012-2013 school year.

Introduction and Links to Bookmark

With schools needing to implement changes on July 1, Central is ready to help in any way possible.  Below is an overview of the new guidelines and list of products that can help with new portion requirements. Don’t hesitate to call one of our Product Consultants at 800-215-9293 with any questions on your school foodservice needs.

Below is a recap of the new guidelines that are to be implemented on July 1.  See a complete overview slideshow in full detail, including upcoming school years, on the USDA website.

To make it easier to find information, each new requirement below includes the corresponding slides.  Other important items to bookmark are:

Lunch Requirements

The USDA has provided a Lunch Meal Pattern for all food items (slide 9). Below find details on each requirement for the July 1, 2012 implementation with links and slide page numbers to refer to for all information.

Slides 10 to 11

  • Offer fruit daily
  • Minimum of ½ cup per day

Slides 12 to 14

  • Offer vegetables subgroups weekly
  • Minimum of ¾ cup per day
  • The weekly requirements are for: Dark green, red/orange, beans/peas (legumes), starchy or other (as defined in 2010 dietary guidelines)

Slides 15 to 18

  • Half of grains must be whole grain-rich and must offer weekly grains ranges.  Whole grain-rich is at least 50 percent whole grains.
  • The USDA says, “If the first ingredient is water, a whole grain may be listed as the second ingredient and still meet our whole grain-rich criteria.”
  • Serving Minimum Requirements:
    • Grades K-5: 1 ounce eq. per day or 8-9 ounces per week
    • Grades 6- 8: 1 ounce eq. per day or 8-10 ounces per week
    • Grades 9- 12: 2 ounce eq. per day or 10-12 ounces per week

Meat/Meat Alternatives
Slides 19 to 20

  • Offer weekly meats/meat alternatives ranges (daily minimum)
  • Serving Minimum Requirements:
    • Grades K-5: 1 ounce eq. per day or 8-10 ounces per week
    • Grades 6-8: 1 ounce eq. per day or 9-10 ounces per week
    • Grades 9-12: 2 ounce eq. per day or 10-12 ounces per week

Slides 21 to 22

  • Offer only fat-free (unflavored or flavored) and low-fat (unflavored) milk
  • Serving Minimum Requirements (same for grades K-12):
    • 1 cup per day or 5 cups per week

Dietary Specifications (to be met on average over a week)
Slides 34 to 39

  • Calorie ranges:
    • Grades K-5: Breakfast: 350-500, Lunch: 550-650
    • Grades 6-8: Breakfast 400-500, Lunch: 600-700
    • Grades 9-12: Breakfast: 450-600, Lunch: 750-850
    • Saturated fat limit
      • Less than 10 percent of total calories
      • Zero grams of trans fat per portion

More lunch requirements are going into effect on July 1 on menu planning, age-grade groups, offer vs. serve and monitoring.  Review the USDA’s Implementation Timeline for details.

Breakfast Requirements

The USDA has provided a Breakfast Meal Pattern for all food items (slide 25). Below find details on each requirement for the July 1, 2012 implementation with links and slide page numbers to refer to for all information.

Slides 30 to 31

  • Serving Minimum Requirements (same for grades K-12):
    • 1 cup per day or 5 cups per week

Dietary Specifications (to be met on average over a week)
Slides 34 to 29

  • Zero grams of trans fat per portion

Central’s Product Suggestions

Need new equipment? Below are suggestions by Product Consultant Dan Merriman. Again, don’t hesitate to contact a Central Product Consultant at 800-215-9293 with help on the new guidelines and purchasing equipment.

Food Portioners


Measuring Cups and Spoons


Compartment Trays

Milk Coolers

Cold Food Pans

Hot Food Pans

10 Halloween Treats and Ideas for School Cafeterias

Halloween is less than two weeks away.  If your school’s cafeteria needs a boost in creativity, check out these 10 tips, which include everything from decoration to food ideas.

Creative Menu

The menu will have to be completely changed, but the food can remain the same!  Use fun Halloween words to describe the menu such as creepy, spooky, horrifying, ghostly, wicked or freaky.  For more Halloween words, the Enchanted Learning website has put together this list to choose from.  Students will definitely be asking for the frightening french fries.

Witch Hat Cookies

On the blog, “Expore,  Dream, Discover” by Barb Schram, she posted a quick and easy dessert idea.  She takes Keebler Fudge stripe cookies and turns them upside down.  Then she covers the hole of the cookies with a Hersey Kiss and attaches them with orange icing. See the full recipe here.

Dress the Part

Why not be a little creative with attire?  Have the kitchen staff wear a fun costume—or even something simple to set the day apart such as witch’s hats, Halloween shirts, jewelry or pins. Check out what the North Pocono School District in Moscow, Penn. put together a few years ago.

Fun Halloween Facts

Education can continue in the lunchroom for Halloween.  Take your cafeteria’s cork or dry erase board, decorate it and list some fun Halloween facts for the students to read. In About.com’s Working Moms section, they put together this list of fun Halloween Facts and History. You can also check out 50 fun Halloween facts from the Free Teach Worksheets website.


Transform the cafeteria from the average lunch room to a Halloween extravaganza.  It can be as simple as Halloween boarder around menu boards to orange and black table cloths and napkins.  You can also find themed objects such as bats and ghosts to suspend from the ceiling and neat lights.  Even the small things matter too, for one of the final touches sprinkle metallic themed Halloween confetti around the tables or utensil area.  It will probably be everywhere by the end of the lunch period, but it’s nothing the broom can’t sweep right up.

Student Involvement

Decorating the cafeteria can be a lot of work, especially if you’re going all out. Get the student’s involved! It will be a fun experience for them and may take a load off the staff.

Creepy Cupcakes

There’s much that can be done when it comes to cupcakes.  Disney put together this slideshow of 13 creepy Halloween cupcakes.  Some may take a little more time and effort, but it will be very neat for the students.

Pumpkin and Apple Recipes

If you’re looking for a few treat ideas on the healthier side, this blog by Stacie Naczelnik lists recipes for hot apple cider, pumpkin seed brittle, baked cinnamon apples and creamy pumpkin squares.

Candy Bags

Bring some of the trick-or-treating vibe to the cafeteria.  Put together something as simple as a sucker or small candy bar wrapped with a black and orange ribbon, or even a few pieces of candy in a Halloween themed bag. If you’re looking to provide allergy safe treats, check out Nut-Free, (Mostly) Allergy-Free Halloween Treat Ideas and 25 Gluten Free Halloween Candies.

More Spooky Treats

Stumped on ideas for desserts?  Look into Betty Crocker’s Spooky Brownies, Martha Stewart’s Jack-o’-Lantern Tarts or Kraft’s Jell-O Jigglers.

What is your school’s cafeteria doing to celebrate Halloween this year? Please share!


Trays That Give Lunch a Boost

traysCurrent issues with school food cover a pretty broad spectrum, from the amount of healthy food being taken in to how much the average school lunch costs.  With all of these concerns at the top of mind, it can become very difficult to figure out an effective plan of action.  However, what if one item could help contribute an answer while also helping the environment?  Would you purchase it for your school?

The quick, easy and affordable answer to get on the right track: lunch trays!   Looking back at how many cafeterias used to work, it’s amazing to think that a product that was once so common has now been replaced by disposables.  In fact, according to an article on informinc.org, the Office of School Food and Nutrition Services for New York City found that NYC public schools serve 800,000 meals per day on disposable trays.

While disposable trays may cut down on water by eliminating washing, they create other issues with the amount of trash created and the expenses for constantly buying new items.   Re-usable lunch trays can actually solve both matters.   Since the trays are being used by several students every day, the cost is cut down.   There is simply the initial cost of buying the product and the daily cleaning.   This re-use is also beneficial in reducing the amount of daily waste from a school and lowering air pollution due to the transport of the trays from a factory to the school on a regular basis.   Lower delivery frequency means fewer delivery fees as well.

In terms of health, re-usable trays can also make a significant difference.   Brian Wasink, a Cornell economics professor, studied how items like school trays can increase the amount of healthy items.  In an article with The Boston Globe, Wasink shared that, “providing lunch trays increased the likelihood that children will choose healthy items.”   His team also found that when children have to carry they food, they are more likely to grab for quick, comfort items.

With benefits like this it’s difficult to deny that lunch trays really do have a purpose in the school cafeteria (other than just transporting food).    To help you better consider the switch from disposable to re-useable tray, Central has created a tray buying guide especially for schools to assist you in making the most informed decision.  Once the buying guide has helped you decide which trays are right for your school, we’ll give you one more incentive to make the upgrade!  From now until June 30, 2011, Central is featuring 25% off select compartment tray colors (Models 250-288 and 250-345 only)!

Once you’ve made the switch, comment below on how it has helped your cafeteria!  If you haven’t switched yet, but have made the choice to, comment on what helped you make the final decision.

Top 10 Ways Central Can Help Your Cafeteria Go Green

Here are 10 ways Central can help you make your school cafeteria more eco-friendly!

1.       Napkin Dispensers: Leaving out a pile of napkins invites students to grab more than they need.  By purchasing a napkin dispenser, you will cut down on the amount of napkins your students will take—and they come in a variety of types, enabling you to choose one that best fits your cafeteria.

2.       Dry Erase/Chalkboard: Instead of printing out menus, whether it’s weekly or monthly, think about using a dry erase or chalkboard instead.  This will cut down on the paper you use and can make for a fun project at the beginning of everyday! Also, parents appreciate having menus online—which is a great way to post a monthly view.

3.       Compartment Cafeteria Trays: If you’re still using disposal trays, consider purchasing compartment trays.  They come in a variety of types from ABS and polypropylene to melamine and co-polymer.  Central has put together a compartment tray buying guide here, enabling you to find the best type of tray to fit your school.

4.       CREW 44” Conveyor Dishwasher: Jackson’s Crew 44” Conveyor dishwasher has the lowest water use of any conveyor in the industry!  This is an easy way to decrease water use in schools.  (Also, as a helpful hint, this conveyor dishwasher is under the Central Edge—which means along with the dishwasher you can get a pair of accent panels at no additional cost to you.  Check out the product for more information).

5.       Flatware: Similar to the trays, using disposable flatware can be very wasteful.  Consider using flatware, perhaps the 18/0 medium weight.

6.       Takeout Food Containers: While these might be best for untraditional cafeteria settings, like a university food court, G.E.T Enterprises has Eco-Takeouts™ Food Containers which are very eco-friendly and have a completely reusable design that reduces the waste produced and re-stocking costs from using disposable takeout containers.

7.       Recycling Containers: This was an obvious no-brainer to include!  But if you haven’t considered recycling at your school, it’s time to start.  Central has a variety of recycling containers to choose from.  And by getting the students to become involved with recycling at school, you might also get them to encourage parents to recycle at home as well.

8.       Towels: While it’s much easier to grab a paper towel to wipe up a mess, try using a towel instead. They come in a variety of shapes, materials and sizes.

9.       Hand Dryer: Piggy-backing off purchasing towels for messes, consider installing a hand dryer next to your sinks for employees and students to use after washing their hands, dishes, etc. to cut down on the use of paper towels. There are many types of hand dryers and purchasing one will save energy and HVAC expenses.

10.   Energy Star: When purchasing equipment, keep an eye out for Energy Star Rated items. These items use less energy and save money.  Click here to learn more about Energy Star products.