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students eating lunch

Properly handling produce is important to keep students safe from foodborne illness. School nutrition staff, teachers, and aids should know what it takes to keep produce safe since they may serve food to students.

Check out the tips below to ensure proper handling of produce in classrooms!

School Nutrition Staff

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before handling or serving fresh fruits and vegetables to students.
  • Pre-package cut produce into closed or covered single-serve containers or individually sealed bags.
  • Consider packaging whole produce, such as oranges, apples, or plums in bags or wrap them.
  • Provide condiments, such as ranch or yogurt dip, in single-serve portions to reduce cross-contamination.
  • If needed, provide wrapped, disposable utensils to students.
  • Deliver produce to classrooms immediately before serving.
  • Use a clean, sanitized, and calibrated thermometer to check food temperatures.
    • Cut produce should be 41°F or below.
    • Record produce temperatures when delivered to the classroom.
  • Use coolers with ice, ice packs, or mobile refrigerated carts to keep produce cold if holding it in classrooms before serving.
  • Return to classrooms to pick up leftover produce after service.
  • Discard all leftover cut produce.
  • Train classroom teachers and staff at the beginning of each school year about hand-washing, controlling time/temperature, and preventing cross contamination.

Teachers and Aids

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before handling or serving fresh fruits and vegetables to students.
  • Give students time to wash their hands with soap and water before eating fresh produce, if possible.
  • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Hand sanitizers alone kill most, but not all, types of germs.
  • Keep produce cold or serve it as soon as possible after it's delivered to the classroom.
  • Do not serve cut produce that has been held at room temperature for more than 2 hours or above 90 °F for more than one hour.
  • You should pass out produce, or allow students to select pre-packaged produce, to reduce potential contamination.
Always follow the Food Code for your local or state jurisdiction. Consult your school district’s food safety plan for appropriate actions when temperature standards are not met. Ask your local health department if you have any questions.
Page updated: May 31, 2024