Just as sudden closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced school cafeterias to shift focus to curbside meals to go, the looming re-opening of schools in the Fall poses new challenges. Unfortunately, most school districts do not have the ability or budget to suddenly purchase a plethora of new equipment and supplies. With that in mind, Central spoke with our industry partners on ways to repurpose what you may already have on-hand to make it through the 2020/21 school year. Below are some of the best suggestions we heard.

School bus with trees in background

1. Turn your salad bars into meal delivery vehicles. While many administrators will consider buffets and salad bars unusable for the time being, there’s a lot of opportunity sitting in these wheeled beauties. Though typically cooled down with ice and packed with greens and toppings, salad bars can be re-purposed to deliver bulk food or bagged/boxed meals directly to the classroom, or for curbside pickup. Utilize these for keeping food cold while making deliveries.

2. “Flex” your Cambro FlexStation for transport, rather than just snacks or grab-n-go foods. Whether you need is in the classroom or curbside, these stations can hold a lot. They offer a means to organize food in bins by classroom, preference, and even allergy restrictions.

3. Sheet Pan Racks Don’t Have to be for Prep and Storage. There’s a good chance you’ll be doing less baking and proofing in the Fall, which means many of your sheet pan racks could sit in a corner gathering dust. Instead of letting them waste away, you could breathe new life into them as food transporters. Gayle Swain with Cambro tells Central that they ran a test with one school district which was able to place 6 meal containers on each 18″x26″ sheet pan. Then, they loaded the pans up at 3” rail spacing, which allowed them to transport 120 meals on a single sheet pan rack! That’s a major time and labor-saver, and a great way to put unused sheet pans and racks back into service.

Another benefit of using sheet pan racks this way is that you can protect the integrity of hot meals by combining the rack with an insulated rack cover. A special mention should go to Cambro’s new Ultimate Sheet Pan Rack and Rack Cover, which has proven extremely popular with schools since its introduction late last year.

Cambro Concession Cart

4. Use Concession or Demo Carts to Bring the Kitchen to the Students. Traditionally, concession carts are used for events, outside service, or in the hallways to encourage impulse food and beverage purchases. To that end, many of them can serve hot or cold food and sometimes have built-in temperature control. You can take advantage of these features and bring the serving line to your students—courtesy of these already wheeled and equipped units!

5. Bussing Carts Leave the Cafeteria. The need to transport food curbside, and soon into classrooms, has led to a big spike in demand for carts of all kind—bussing carts most of all. Typically, these carts are compact and easy to navigate. Bussing carts, utility carts, and other configurations are a life-saver when needing to move food safely from point A to point B.

6. Are Bussing and Utility Carts Not Large Enough? Call up Queen Mary! Prized for their large size and high weight capacity, Queen Mary Carts have traditionally been used to transport bulk catering equipment, supplies, or chafers food. However, Queen Mary’s are finding a 2nd life as big-bulk transporters of prepared food to the classroom or the curbside. Utilize one of these carts for bulk food, supplies, or beverage transportation.