Aging Equipment: Keep or Replace?

In “(Stainless) Steel Going Strong” (April 2021), a number of school nutrition operators shared hints and tips related to improving the school kitchen equipment management process. Without strategically purchased, well-managed kitchen equipment, there is no school meals program! And since equipment is a hefty line item in a school foodservice budget, experienced directors understand the importance of regular maintenance and repair to extend the life of these workhorses as long as possible—and the value of knowing when it’s time to let them go to their rest.

As part of this issue’s online extras, SchoolNutrition collected further advice from our panel of experts:

  • Robbin Cross, SNS, Supervisor, Food & Culinary Services, Franklin (Tenn.) Special School District
  • Chris Derico, SNS, Child Nutrition Director, Harrison County (W.Va.) School District
  • Lori Drenth, MS, RD, SNS, Food and Nutrition Services Director, Hernando County (Fla.) School District
  • Christel lHicks, Child Nutrition Director, Clinton (Miss.) Public Schools
  • Marci Lexa, SNS, Director of School Nutrition Programs, Henry County (Va.) Public Schools
  • Sarah Stone, Director of Dining Services, Zeeland (Mich.) Public Schools

What are some of the oldest pieces of equipment in your operation? How do you “baby”them to keep them working?

“School foodservice staff take great care of their equipment, so it will last longer than a restaurant’s equipment. But that means we have some dinosaurs in our kitchens. Our middle school has two double-stack electric convection ovens from the Seventies! I’m thankful to have a budget to buy new equipment this year, and replacing those ovens is at the top of my list.

“When the budget doesn’t allow for a replacement and the equipment is so old we can’t get parts for it, we turn to a wonderful service company that sometimes can build a part for us.”—SarahStone

“We have two old pressure steam-jacketed kettles. They just renewed the inspection on them last year, so we keep using them. We also have a couple of old Hobart Buffalo Choppers that I keep expecting to die. They have been on my ‘replace when dead’ list for years! Both are museum pieces—over 40 years old. And we’re not babying these to keep them alive. We just keep them clean and covered when not in use.”—Marci Lexa

“Although it varies from kitchen to kitchen, throughout my career, we try hardest to extend the life of our dishwashers. This is mostly because of the cost of their replacement and the time required for bidding and replacement. Although we don’t have a specific maintenance person employed on the child nutrition staff, the district’s maintenance team is very knowledgeable and have been able to serve almost all my repair and maintenance issues. It is a great help and load off me! At a former district, with a much smaller staff, I would turn to independent repair companies.”—Chris Derico

“One of our schools still has an old steam kettle with hard metal doors. Because it’s extinct, we can no longer get parts, so we are going to have it removed from our inventory.”—Christell Hicks

“We have ovens that are 30+ years old, but this is when equipment was made to withstand hard work. We have a great maintenance person who knows how to ‘baby’ equipment like no other! Parts availability is typically the catalyst for making the replacement decision. If we can’t find parts for repair, then the equipment becomes of no use.”—Lori Drenth

“I think everyone knows the magic power of duct tape!”—Robbin Cross

How do you dispose of old equipment once you’re ready to replace it?

“Once we have approval from the school board, we can post and sell the item on ( is the seller site.) It is a great way to receive money for those broken items you’re no longer going to try to repair. It’s amazing what people will pay for our ‘junk!’”—Robbin Cross

“Our district will organize a public sale for all obsolete items.”—Lori Drenth

“This depends. Upon the recommendation of my maintenance staff and working with equipment vendors, we evaluate if there is any life in a particular piece of equipment. If it’s at the end of its life, maintenance may keep some parts for future use and the rest is scrapped. We are normally able to do so at no cost.”—ChrisDerico

“Old equipment is removed from the kitchen and placed in district surplus storage for maintenance to use for parts. In some instances, once it’s removed from our fixed assets, we have been allowed to sell or dispose of the items.”—ChristellHicks

“I hate clutter, so nothing is left in the kitchen to gather dust. If it’s worth selling, we will do so. But most equipment being replaced is sent to the scrap yard.”—Sarah Stone

“Depending on whether the equipment is still working when we replace it, we make a determination whether it should be sold/auctioned or whether we should sell for scrap. We do not leave pieces we aren’t using in the kitchens—we need all the space!”—Marci Lexa

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