Back to school time arrives every September, and we suggest that school cafeteria workers take the time to review what they learned during their food safe training. Many local schools provide meal programs beyond standard cafeteria lunches, and food service workers must display vigilance to keep the food our students eat free from potential food-borne illnesses.
Food Safe Training and School Cafeteria Safety
After a few months of inactivity or sporadic use, school cafeteria managers should see to the current state of the sanitation of their cooking and serving facilities. Examine and re-sanitize all cooking, preparation and storage surfaces before any food preparation begins. If you accomplish this before your first shipment of food product arrives, you will have easier access to storage areas and hard to reach places. Besides the standard preparation surfaces, a few hidden areas offer breeding grounds for bacteria that left unchecked will pose a health risk:
• Behind equipment like ice machines and ovens
• Dish storage areas
• Underneath counters
Once you have completed the sanitation of your kitchen, you should review food handling procedures with your entire staff. Cafeteria service offers up a different set of challenges than other food service outlets, so making sure that your team understands proper food holding temperatures and no-bare hand contact regulations will reduce the risk of sickening students due to improper food handling procedures.
School cafeteria lunches, breakfasts and after-school meals are often placed in a steam table to be held for service. Your hot food must remain at a temperature over 140 degrees and cold food product must be stored below 41 degrees. Remind your staff to use a thermometer at regular intervals to ensure that your ready-to-serve product stays out of the danger zone. A review of heating methods for already prepared product should also take place. Heat all hot foods in a manner where they spend as little time as possible between 41 and 140 degrees.
Finally, since most food served to students will be handled by cafeteria workers, remember that Minnesota Food Code prohibits bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. Make sure that food service gloves, tongs, scoops and other utensils are readily available to prevent any bare hand contact.
If any of your employees are still in need of food safety certification, we gladly offer instructor led and online food safe classes to get your staff certified and prepared to serve food safely.