School meals have changed significantly with the last few years. Not only have they gotten healthier, school foodservice operators have worked hard to make them taste better. In 2012, the USDA’s School Lunch Program and National School Breakfast Program went into effect, which required students to select a fruit or vegetable at each meal and at least three other items. Olga Perez, Child Nutrition Director at Medina Valley Independent School District in Castroville, Texas, says she noticed that because students were forced to take a certain number of items, some of these foods would end up in the trash. In response, her schools started offering share tables.
What is a Share Table?
Students can place their unwanted food or drinks on a share table and if there is a student who would like to enjoy it, they can pick up a little something extra. “Maybe they have special circumstances where their appetite is stronger or they just need to eat a little bit more,” said Perez.
Share tables are especially beneficial in communities where students rely on school meals for most of their nourishment. In 2016, the USDA put out a memo supporting share tables and commending them as an “innovative strategy to encourage the consumption of nutritious foods and reduce food waste.”
“During breakfast, I thought all kids would like juice, but there are some kinds who just decide they don’t want to drink it after all and they place it [in the share table] and another student takes it,” said Perez.
Keeping Food Safety Protocols
Previously, the staff at Medina Valley Middle School made a makeshift share table out of a spare rolling cart and metal food pans filled with ice. Perez wasn’t happy with the presentation.
“When you’re filling a pan with ice and as the meal service goes on, you have the ice melting and things are dripping,” said Perez.
Perez was working with her local Cambro rep on their cafeteria remodel. She had seen previous setup at MVDS and provided a solution to their share table woes.
“[Our Cambro rep] said, ‘wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t need to use ice?’ And I said ‘yeah, that would be great.’ And she said, ‘we can do that’,” said Perez.
Designers were able to make a special table that perfectly fits two Cambro ColdFest Pans—and matches the new serving and checkout area. ColdFest pans are designed with an impact resistant shell and non-toxic refrigerant gel that keeps contents cold for hours. The result is food held at the ideal cold temperature without the mess of ice.
New Opportunities for Schools in District
Although MVMS is the only school in the district to receive a new cafeteria renovation, Perez is already looking to implement changes at their other six schools.
“We definitely want to use some more of the ColdFest pans for sure. I talked to some of the managers and we’re looking at ordering some instead of them having to use the ice,” said Perez.
In fact, the high school has already started using ColdFest Pans to hold milk at the ordering window inside their cafeteria. Perez made the change after she saw the ice inside the pans turn to water within an hour.
Are you having trouble with the cold-holding in your kitchen or serving area? Contact your Cambro rep to receive the solutions that suit your operation.