One of the many concerns in schools and school districts is keeping students adequately fed. Increasing numbers of schools have added breakfast service to the traditional lunch service, which means they have to deal with more food on a daily basis. That makes it ever more important that the food is safe and of high quality.
For this reason, more and more schools are turning to IoT sensors to help ensure that their kitchens, refrigeration systems, freezers, and food warmers are operating correctly. They want to be sure that what they feed the students – typically picky eaters to begin with – is served at the right temperatures, to encourage the youngsters to eat what’s on their plate, and to help ensure that the food is free of pathogens that might grow at a less than optimum temperature.
There are also cost and compliance considerations. Spoiled and uneaten food costs money and represents a real waste of resources. And schools want to be sure that they comply with all applicable local, state, and federal regulations related to food temperature.
With all that in mind, schools are interested in automating the process as much as possible, for better monitoring and to eliminate the chance of human error. They are recognizing the benefits that IoT sensors can bring to the table, so to speak. For example:
- Near real-time monitoring to ensure proper equipment operation and performance efficiency.
- Quick identification of potential issues and the ability to help isolate and react immediately to problems.
- Early indications of equipment that might be in need of repair, enabling preventive maintenance and avoiding the surprise replacement costs of high-dollar systems.
- Alerts about a variety of problems, from temperature fluctuations to doors left ajar to water leakage.
- Automated recording of the key data needed to help prove compliance with various regulations.
- Improved pest control.
- Energy savings can be realized through enhanced visibility from monitoring capabilities.
One West coast school district offers a tangible example of the peace of mind that IoT sensors can provide when it comes to food service.
This district, with 11 schools, found out the hard way what happens when its refrigeration unit fails and no one is there to discover the problem. The failure occurred over the summer break, and when the staff showed up to get ready for the start of school, they found rotted food and a foul smell that permeated the school and the classrooms.
Because it was summer, the refrigeration units were not as full as they would be during the school year, yet the school still had to replace $1,200 in spoiled food and pay to clean and repair the refrigeration unit and deodorize classrooms.
Wanting to be sure this didn’t happen again, the school district deployed IoT sensors in each school to automatically monitor the refrigeration systems around the clock.
Real-time sensor data is sent via wireless gateways to a cloud-based app where staff can easily monitor the systems from virtually anywhere and can receive alerts whenever the temperatures drift out of a preset range. In addition to preserving food quality and help ensuring compliance, the district is saving thousands of dollars annually in the cost of employees’ time required to monitor the systems.
For schools, food quality and freshness are critical to the proper care and feeding of the children they serve. IoT sensors can ease the worries of school food service personnel, provide near-real-time data, and help schools make better use of the time that employees have been spending merely checking temperatures.