An Illinois school district has moved into the latest trend in school food service with the construction of a large commissary that trucks lunches to 5,000 students per day.
Imperial Brown’s West Coast and East Coast manufacturing facilities combined forces to produce large panels for the freezer cooler combo and 10 high-tech electric doors that open remotely for the U 46 School District in Elgin, IL. The panels were produced at the North Carolina plant and the electric sliding doors, at the Portland plant.
The entire commissary operates with a fleet of forklifts that moves raw product into coolers or the freezer. After the lunches are prepared, the forklifts deliver the packaged lunches to trucks, where the food travels to each school in the district.
Each forklift is equipped with an electric transmitter that allows the driver to open any of the 10 electric doors remotely, an efficiency that saves time and speeds service. This required a lot of technology, according to Bryan Newman, regional sales manager for the Midwest for Imperial Brown. As the transmitter is activated at a door, the air curtain automatically kicks in, creating an invisible barrier and preventing cold air from rushing out.
The sheer size of the wall panels was a challenge in both the factory construction and during the installation, Newman said. The walls are 23 feet tall, requiring extra care and caution during set-up.
The ability of Imperial Brown to manufacture panels spanning 25’ is a big competitive advantage in the walk-in cooler industry.
The Elgin freezer is 39 feet long and 28 feet wide. It has pallet shelving, where packaged food is deposited. A “thaw” cooler, located in front of the bulk freezer, occupies 17 feet by 28 feet of floor space. Food is forklifted from the freezer to this cooler where it thaws. An “issue” cooler, 33 feet by 20 feet, is used to deposit prepared food until it is “issued out” of the facility. The third bulk cooler is 33 feet by 24 feet in dimension.
The floors of the freezer and coolers are designed with the structural strength to support the weight of the forklifts and the heavy quantities of bulk food that are placed in storage. With the floor structure designed for handle extra weight, frozen food that is purchased in bulk can sit in place for long periods without adding to floor compression.
For school systems, centralizing food service streamlines operations and is more efficient and less expensive than locating and operating full service kitchens and cafeterias in each school.