By Cecily Walters 2016-04-05 07:08:27
Contemplate Cleanliness Operators share their preferred cleaning equipment, their purchasing influencers and some valuable advice. At first glance, cleaning up a school kitchen might seem similar to cleaning up at home. After all, the main goal is the same: Get the dishes clean, whether in the sink or in the dishwasher. But given the unique needs of school nutrition operations, cleanup must be done more quickly and on a much larger scale than at home. Even if a site uses disposable foodservice ware at the point of service, there are still pans, serving utensils, cutlery, storage containers and so on. Plus, there are other areas of the kitchen that require deep cleaning. So, how do operators make the process as efficient and as effective as possible? School nutrition professionals from around the country share the cleaning equipment they use in their operations, the factors that influence their purchasing decisions for these items and more. Portland (Ore.) Public Schools “Facility layout and size can impact and determine whether we have cleaning equipment on site and what type of equipment,” says Assistant Director for Nutrition Services Whitney Ellersick, MS, RDN. “Some kitchen sites do not have any cleaning equipment and require dishes to be sent to another location for proper cleaning and sanitation.” In the operation’s smaller kitchens that do have warewashing equipment, staff may use a stand-alone dishwasher that has no feed and return space or two-or three-compartment sinks with no space for feed and return. In roomier kitchens, staff use dishwashers and three-compartment sinks. Ellersick, who notes that she plans to purchase new pieces of these types of equipment within the next couple of years, cites space, layout configurations and participation numbers as factors that influence her purchasing decisions for dishwashers. It also has been important to purchase dishwashers that do not require vent hoods, as it would be cost-prohibitive to install vent hoods retroactively for replacement systems, she explains. Similarly, she finds it also would be cost-prohibitive to arrange for sufficient electrical power at these sites to run booster heaters, so dishwashers that require booster heaters, rather than being self-heating, are not an option for future purchases. Ellersick and her team also value dishwashers that are tall enough to wash several sheet pans at once. When purchasing compartment sinks, she considers sink depth and the ability to lay sheet pans flat to soak. Shelving above and below the sinks for storage also is useful, Ellersick notes. She offers some valuable advice for colleagues in other districts preparing to purchase new cleaning equipment. “Check the capacity of your facility—electrical, plumbing, metal work needed, ventilation, water heating, etc.—before purchasing,” she recommends. Talk to your maintenance team for their opinions on the specific models you are considering. Remember that the frontline employees at the particular site are great sources of useful feedback on what they do or do not like about their cleaning equipment. When it comes to dishwashers, “Know ahead of time what specifications you want. Cheaper is not always better,” Ellersick warns. Mason City (Ohio) Schools The operation’s use of permanent trays made “dishmachines an obvious choice for [us],” says Child Nutrition Supervisor Tamara Earl, SNS. “Also, all of our schools are large—the smallest has an enrollment of 1,100—so the need to be full-service was important,” she adds. Of the dishmachines in use, one is low temperature and employs a chemical sanitizing process, while the others are high temperature with booster heaters. The decision to convert one of the high-temperature dishmachines to low-temperature was a consequence of an energy-conservation initiative established throughout the school district. In addition to dishmachines, the school nutrition team also uses three-compartment sinks. While Earl’s department was not involved in making the purchasing decisions for these, she affirms that having these sinks is helpful, especially when washing larger items, because all of the operation’s kitchens prep meals onsite. These three-compartment sinks also serve as backup if a dishmachine malfunctions, she notes. Earl cites a variety of other pieces of cleaning equipment that have proved valuable in the process of deep cleaning other areas of the school kitchen and cafeteria, particularly the hard-to-reach spots. School nutrition staff use a pressure washer to blast and wash dirt off of items such as wheels on carts, and shop vacuums have been useful in keeping carpeted mats clean in the areas where students pick up trays, as well as where dust gathers behind equipment and on motors. A school maintenance team member uses a steam cleaner, which is “excellent for any greasy or caked-on dirt, [such as] on wheels, and on small floor areas,” Earl describes. A CoilPod also has proven effective in cleaning coils on refrigeration. The CoilPod is a fabric bag with a see-through panel that can be closed tightly around the condenser on a piece of equipment. A vacuum hose can then be used to clean the condenser coils without airborne dust blowing into the kitchen, as the resulting dust is contained in the CoilPod bag. Along with cleaning hard-to-reach places and minimizing the accumulation of dust, “Freezers and cooler floors continue to be a challenge, even with products designed [to clean] cold areas. We must be vigilant of the flooring that borders walk-in freezers and coolers. It is easy to have moisture and mold collect,” Earl reports. Spring Branch Independent School District, Houston, Texas Director of Child Nutrition Services Chris Kamradt, SNS, sings the praises of the Power Soak sinks used throughout his operation. The staff has been so pleased with them that they are moving toward only using Power Soak sinks in the program’s kitchens instead of the current combination of Power Soak sinks, compartment sinks and dishmachines, he reports. Power Soak sinks, which use continuous motion to reduce physical labor and are available in a variety of sizes, including custom configurations. Though the operation was committed to standard dishmachines when Kamradt started in his role 13 years ago, the staff quickly realized the effectiveness of the Power Soak sinks. “We find these sinks clean better, and they don’t require a vent hood above the machine,” Kamradt explains. Although this equipment may be more expensive than other options, the overall costs can end up being lower when factoring in the potential costs of upgrading or retrofitting existing hoods for other cleaning equipment. The dishmachines currently being used in the Spring Branch operation are high-temperature and include chemical sanitization systems as backup, in case the booster heaters fail. Kamradt says he prefers high-temperature dishmachines over low-temperature units “due to the ability to sanitize without chemicals, which I always try to shy away from.” Relatedly, staff members in his operation prefer to use quaternary ammonia instead of bleach. He notes that, along with ease of use, staff safety is the largest purchasing influencer when selecting cleaning equipment. “The unfortunate reality of cleaning is that workers are exposed to some hazardous situations as a matter of course, [including] hot water and caustic chemicals. Anything I can do to minimize risk is worth it to me,” Kamradt asserts. Compartment sinks are only used in kitchens that are too small for the Power Soak units, and he concedes that the small size of some of his operation’s kitchens is a challenge when it comes to fitting in replacement equipment. Other cleaning equipment used in Kamradt’s operation includes hand mops, brooms, towels and brushes. What type of cleaning equipment would he like to see on the market? “A floor scrubber that’s easy to use, effective and affordable. I haven’t been able to find all three,” he relates. Yankton (S.D.) School District Paying attention to what her staff wants or will use is essential in making purchasing decisions regarding cleaning equipment, asserts Child Nutrition Supervisor Sandi Kramer. She makes a point to involve them in these purchases, as “just because you think it was great or because the salesman said it was great, does not mean they will use it,” she says. Kramer gives the example of a small scrubber to be used on her operation’s floors that she introduced to staff members. “No one used it, because they were scared of it or didn’t know how,” she recalls. Upon observing this hesitation to use the new product, Kramer asked the salesperson to conduct an inservice training. “Now they are not afraid to use it,” she reports, adding, “I have found the simpler the equipment is, the better it is.” Throughout her operation, Kramer’s staff uses conveyor dishwashers and three-compartment sinks. The same cleaning equipment is used throughout the district’s kitchens, regardless of size. The sinks are used to soak sheet pans, in addition to being used as backup if a dishwasher is down. The dishwashers also are tall enough to accommodate sheet pans. “Now most [dishwashers] come that way, but years ago, it was a special request to have them tall enough for sheet pans,” Kramer recalls. She has gravitated toward high-temperature machines. “Low-temperature machines were usually more expensive, because of the chemicals, and I always felt that high-temperature machines cleaned and sanitized better,” she observes. Looking forward, Kramer envisions purchasing power washers or sprayers to clean dock areas and to spray shelving and garbage cans within the next couple of years. She always includes a request for training after installation in her bid requests for any large pieces of equipment. “They don’t need lots of equipment to clean things. Cleaning just needs to be done on a regular schedule [with] the right chemical. We bought a new roll-in oven, and the best way to clean it is with simple vinegar water and wiping it out every day,” she details. Kramer finds that one of her staff’s favorite items for cleaning are stainless steel disposable wipes that can be used to help with an item’s shine. “They love them, and when they like something, they will use it,” she observes. Kramer has some advice for other school nutrition operators planning to purchase new cleaning equipment. In addition to getting staff feedback about needs and preferences, she recommends talking with staff from other operations that use a particular product to learn more about their experiences. Kramer also reiterates the idea that simple cleaning, such as with a good cleaning brush, can go a long way. “I have equipment that is more than 30 years old and it looks brand-new, just because I had staff that cared about it and [cleaned and] took care of it,” she states. “When you assign someone to a piece of equipment, they take ownership of it, and it is amazing how they will take care of it.” Foodservice Cleaning Equipment and Supplies Vendors Explore some of the options available for cleaning equipment and supplies in school nutrition operations. • Cambro Manufacturing www.cambro.com • Carlisle FoodService Products www.carlislefsp.com • CoilPod, LLC www.coilpod.com • Diversey www.diversey.com • Duke Manufacturing www.dukemfg.com • Ecolab USA www.ecolab.com • Eurosteam www.eurosteam.com • Harper Brush www.harperbrush.com • Hobart www.hobartcorp.com • Insinger www.insingermachine.com • ITW/FEG www.itwfoodequipmentsolutions.com • Jackson WWS, Inc. www.jacksonwws.com • The Libman Company www.libmanpro.com • Malish www.malish.com • MEIKO www.meiko.us • Moyer Diebel www.moyerdiebel.com • National Restaurant Supply www.nrsupply.com • Power Soak/Unified Brands www.powersoak.com • PrecisionTemp www.precisiontemp.com • The Salvajor Company www.salvajor.com • SAN-AIRE Industries www.san-aire.com • San Jamar www.sanjamar.com • SFSPac Food Service Sanitation Systems www.portionpaccorp.com • Sysco www.sysco.com • Tornado Industries, Inc. www.tornadovac.com • Vollrath www.vollrath.com You’re The Expert A snapshot of the districts that shared their reflections on cleaning equipment in this month’s column. • Portland (Ore.) Public Schools Website: www.pps.net Director: Gitta Grether-Sweeney Assistant Director: Whitney Ellersick, MS, RDN District enrollment: ~49,000 Number of schools: 84 • Mason City (Ohio) Schools Website: www.masonohioschools.com Director: Tamara Earl, SNS District enrollment: ~10,500 Number of schools: 6 • Spring Branch Independent School District, Houston, Texas Website: www.springbranchisd.com Director: Chris Kamradt, SNS District enrollment: ~36,000 Number of schools: 44 • Yankton (S.D.) School District Website: www.ysd.k12.sd.us Director: Sandi Kramer District enrollment: ~2,700 Number of schools: 6 BONUS WEB CONTENT Check out the recommendations of the director from West Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools. Visit www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent. Cecily Walters is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore., and a former managing editor of this publication.
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