As the school year begins, school kitchens once again prepare to serve healthy meals to millions of children across the country. The back-to-school routine is one you know well, but recent trends are now placing additional strain on school kitchens. With new nutritional requirements and more students eating cafeteria-prepared meals, your equipment has to work overtime to keep up. Many schools choose to work with a parts distributor like Heritage Parts to identify critical parts for maintenance or repair and deliver them quickly to minimize any downtime and make the most of the last bit of summer.
New Standards Shake Things Up in the Kitchen
School menus have continued to change, as new nutritional requirements gradually take effect after the passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The law marked the first major changes to the school meal program in 15 years, with new standards that align more closely with the latest nutritional science.
While the act has been celebrated as a way to improve the health of American children and fight obesity, the new standards also present a challenge for school kitchens. Changing menus means shuffling things around in the kitchen. It also means additional strain on different appliances. Ovens, for example, must work overtime, as baked alternatives, such as oven fries, replace traditionally fried foods.
Twice the Meals Mean Twice the Work
Another recent trend placing additional strain on school kitchens is the increase in school breakfasts being served. Every day, 12.6 million breakfasts are served to kids across the nation, and that number is on the rise.
In fact, in the last 10 years, the number of school breakfasts being served has increased by 49 percent. That means many children are now eating more meals at school than they are at home.
The number of lunches served is on the rise as well. While some students still prefer to brown-bag it, the majority eat a cafeteria-prepared lunch; and that number has been increasing steadily, with five billion lunches now served annually.
As school kitchens strive to serve students two nutritious meals daily, the strain on kitchen equipment has increased. Not only must school kitchens prepare twice as many meals as they did in the past, but they also face the stress of a tight turnaround between meals.
The average school kitchen has only two hours between the end of the last breakfast period and the beginning of the first lunch period. In that time, staff must clean up, prepare another meal and prep the cafeteria for students’ return.
Preparing for the Unexpected
Today running a school kitchen effectively and economically means being ready for anything. Preventative maintenance of kitchen equipment is key; and it also helps to keep parts on hand for quick repairs, in order to minimize equipment downtime. If a refrigerator breaks down, for example, time is of the essence, since milk stays safe for only two hours at 40? Fahrenheit.
It’s also important to find a parts distributor you can rely on to help keep your school kitchens running strong all year long. At Heritage Parts, our parts specialists are ready to help you quickly stock up on the parts that you’ll need for your regularly scheduled maintenance and repairs.
With more than 99 percent parts-identification accuracy and same-day shipping, Heritage Parts is a partner that you can rely on to keep your kitchen equipment running at maximum efficiency. Call 1-800-458-5593 to speak with your dedicated parts specialist, or visit HeritageParts.com to create your own personal online account and order parts anytime.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service, “School Breakfast Program Participation and Meals Served,” May 8, 2015, http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/pd/sbsummar.pdf.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service, “National School Lunch Program: Participation and Lunches Served,” May 8, 2015, http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/pd/slsummar.pdf.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service, “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: Before/After Elementary School Lunch Menu,” http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/cnr_chart.pdf (accessed May 13, 2015).
Cynthia Long, Director, Child Nutrition Division, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, “Questions & Answers on the School Breakfast Program Meal Pattern in School Year 2013-2014,” June 13, 2013. http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/SP28-2013v2os.pdf.
National Center for Education and Statistics, “Fast Facts,” http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372 (accessed May 13, 2015).
School Nutrition Association, “School Meal Trends & Stats,” https://schoolnutrition.org/AboutSchoolMeals/SchoolMealTrendsStats/#6 (accessed May 13, 2015).