School District Transports 7,000 Meals with the Pro Cart Ultra

Picture this. You’re a school nutrition services director who needs to transport 7,000 meals every day. Sometimes you need to transport hot food and sometimes you need to transport cold food. What’s a director to do? Jennifer Tatro, Director of Nutrition Services at Hutchinson Public Schools, made the smart decision to get Pro Cart Ultra units.

Located in Hutchinson, Kansas, HPS cooks food in 3 main kitchens before loading the food into trucks to be delivered to satellite locations. Tatro liked the Pro Cart Ultra because it was flexible in multiple ways.

“Most of the carts that we had used prior didn’t have the flexibility to utilize the carts in a variety of different formats. That was the one thing that drew us to the Pro Cart is that they had the ability to take out the rails and are very flexible to use different pan sizes, and we can just put cases of food in them,” said Tatro.  

Another thing that makes the Pro Cart Ultra especially unique is the capability to hold both hot and cold food in the same cart.

“We’ve always had hot carts, but we’ve never had cold carts. That’s another thing that we liked about these carts is that they have the ability to put hot food in the top and do cold food in the bottom,” said Tatro. “That has really helped with our items that we do want to keep cold. We’ve been able to keep those products colder, longer versus just ice packs and that type of thing.”

When the coronavirus pandemic began, Tatro was extremely thankful that they already had almost 2 dozen Pro Cart Ultra units ready to be used.

“However we conducted getting food out the door, they were able to adapt to that. When Covid-19 hit, we immediately went from serving regular meals in the cafeteria to curbside, and so having those carts we were able to take all the metal shelving out of them and immediately put in sack lunches that we were then able to take to curbside and start distributing through a drive-thru service,” said Tatro.

“Honestly, I don’t know what we would have done had we not had those transportation carts.”

As with many sectors, Tatro is still struggling with labor issues and isn’t always sure who will be working each day. Using the Pro Cart Ultra makes it easy for Tatro to adjust to different staffing situations.

“[The Pro Cart Ultra units] are so versatile, they’re so easy for staff to utilize and they’re simple. I think that’s a lot of times what we need in our programs is simple equipment for regardless of who walks in the door. They’re able to plug it in and they’re not having to adjust what the temperature is, it’s already kind of set for them,” said Tatro.

“With labor, we really don’t know who’s working for us today and who’s not and they might be going from one building to another to help us out and so the flexibility of the carts, being able to modify them whether we send food on baking sheets or we send the food in physical cases, we can adjust the cart accordingly.”

The durability of the carts was also a huge selling point for Tatro. She needed something that could endure harsh temperatures and rough handling.

“The nice thing about the carts is we served food in snow, ice, rain and everything and I just didn’t really have to worry about whether they could withstand those temperatures. Even to extreme heat conditions, we had them out into over 100 degree weather,” said Tatro.  

“My carts…because of having a variety of different delivery drivers, we have 2 or 3 of them that have definitely gone off the back of the truck multiple times and they’re still surviving. I think we have definitely tested them for durability.”

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