Food storage is an extremely important part of food safety in educational institutions. Whether an elementary school cafeteria or a college food court, food and learning go hand in hand. When food is stored improperly or at the wrong temperature in schools, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria to far more people at once they rely on the meals they receive in that setting.
Perishable foods must be kept in sealed containers and promptly refrigerated before they enter the Temperature Danger Zone (between 4°C and 60°C), which is the temperature range in which bacteria thrive (doubling every four to 20 minutes). High-risk foods like meat, eggs or dairy should never be left at room temperature for too long; after two hours in the danger zone, high-risk foods must be thrown out, and this time is cumulative — so transport, delivery and prep time counts.
Any foods that are on display for self-service should either be packaged in sealed wrapping or should have proper serving utensils like tongs or spoons — students should never have a reason to touch food with their bare hands.
Here are a few helpful reminders about safe food storage and display in educational institutions:
- Raw meat, fish and poultry should be stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, below ready-to-eat foods or fresh produce. Keep it covered with plastic wrap or in sealed containers.
- Dry goods should be stored in sealed packages or containers; store off the ground and away from the wall to deter pests.
- Hot foods should be displayed at 60°C or above — remember to preheat hot holding equipment and make sure that hot food is cooked/reheated to at least 74°C before placing it into hot holding equipment.
- Cold foods should be stored at 4°C or below — it’s all about keeping high-risk foods out of the danger zone!