School foodservice operations are unique in that, in most cases, kitchens are shut down during the summer months. To ensure the districts’ investments are properly protected, there are certain protocol that is necessary to follow.
This is the case at Georgia’s fifth-largest school district, Clayton County, located south of Atlanta. According to Kitchen Equipment Supervisor W. Lee Richards, most units don’t have specific shut down procedures besides turning off the gas or electricity.
“For our school district, shutting down equipment is our biggest issue,” he says. “We have 65 schools and only four technicians to take care of the kitchens.”
Georgia’s hot and humid summers are particularly challenging.
“Ice machines and milk boxes will start sweating and molding, and that’s an issue,” he says. “As a result, we need to go to each school and turn everything off, prop open doors and let these units air out.”
Refrigeration manufacturer Traulsen recommends first disconnecting the equipment from the power supply by flipping the on/off switch to ‘off’, then unplugging the unit. After cleaning the interior thoroughly using a mixture of warm water and soap, the refrigeration unit’s doors should be left open to dry and air out the interior.
“Summer is the primary time to do preventative maintenance as well,” says Lee. “It is when we completely tear down, clean and sanitize our ice machines as well as walk-in freezers and coolers, which we leave running to store product over the summer.” One energy-saving tip is to consolidate food to a few refrigerators and freezers, turning off the units that are not in use when school is closed.
Ovens with standing pilot lights also need attention prior to summer break.
“During the summer we have the vent hoods cleaned, and this causes the oven’s pilot light to go out,” says Lee. “This produces a gas smell in the kitchen.”
To avoid this issue, the gas is shut off when schools close for the summer. It’s turned back on a couple weeks prior to classes starting.
“With foodservice equipment, it’s important to make sure gas and water, specifically, are turned off,” says Lee. “Electrical is not much of an issue, unless equipment is running.”
He adds that most of the district’s equipment has separate breakers, so it’s possible to unplug a unit or turn a breaker off to disconnect electrical feeds.
“Some equipment is hard-wired. In this case, shut off needs to happen at the electrical panel,” says Lee.
Equipment using water, such as combi ovens and dedicated steamers, also needs added attention at summer shut down. For these units, Clayton County has specific procedures to avoid problems.
“If you leave a steamer with water in it all summer, this will present a problem with stagnation and possible mold,” says Lee. “It’s important to not only completely shut the power off, but also drain all the water.”
Other measures that can be taken at summer shut down include cleaning and polishing stainless steel surfaces; lubricating chains, drive mechanisms and bearings to prevent corrosion and seizing; and covering equipment to keep out dust, grease and other contaminants.
Properly shutting down equipment is important to minimize mechanical issues at the start of the school year as well as reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and prevent mold and bacteria growth.
For more maintenance tips visit HeritageParts.com.
When the students are on summer vacation, Clayton County takes care of deep cleaning and preventative maintenance work to ensure their equipment is ready for the next school year.