Store More—Fresh Produce!

In “Store More,” an October 2019 article on best practices for more efficient and safe storage in K-12 school foodservice operations, author Gayle Swain revealed that food waste costs the U.S. economy some $165 billion each year. Foodservice establishments discard some 6,000 tons of food every day—and 5% of that is directly related to improper storage practices. Fresh produce is one area particularly prone to waste.

Did you know that how and where you store fresh produce in your cooler and dry storage can have a significant impact on its shelf life? In fact, some research shows that proper storage can extend freshness by an additional two to three days! Swain, manager, Non-Commercial Markets for Cambro, offers the following tips:

  • Know which types of produce can harm other types. For example, you want to keep ethylene gas-producing fruits and vegetables (such as apples, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, peaches, pears, plums and tomatoes) away from blower fans in a cooler. Ethylene gas can initiate the ripening process prematurely of other fruits and vegetables or cause damage.
  • Know which types of produce are sensitive to ethylene! These include unripe bananas, green beans, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, peppers, spinach and sweet potatoes.
  • Produce that is prone to dehydration should be kept away from the blower fans.
  • Always cover your produce to protect it.
  • The warmest part of your cooler is closest to the door. In this area (which likely has temps in the 40-45°F range), you can store melons, oranges, cantaloupe, pineapple green beans, cucumbers, eggplant, avocados, red potatoes, cucumbers, peppers and/or summer squash.
  • In the middle of the cooler (where temps are 35-39°F), place squash, zucchini, sprouts, green onions, herbs, pears and parsley.
  • The rear, the coldest section of the cooler (often as chilly as 33-35°F), is a good place for apples, apricots, blueberries, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherries, corn, grapes, leaf lettuce, mushrooms, peaches and strawberries.
  • Outside the cooler (with temps in the 50-55°F range), store potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, onions, lemons/limes.

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