An integrated refrigeration and rethermalization system for storage of prepared meals in a refrigerated state, rethermalization of the meals in accordance with a rethermalization program, and maintenance of the rethermalized meals at a desired serving temperature is disclosed. Refrigerated meals are placed on trays, supported by heater shelves, in a refrigeration-rethermalization cart having onboard refrigeration. Critical cooling elements of the onboard refrigerator are located within the food storage area of the cart for improved cooling air flow and maximum cooling efficiency. The heater shelves contain one or more heating elements designed to heat only selected food items located on the trays in accordance with preset time-temperature curves, or rethermalization programs. A user control panel is located on the outside of the cart and enables a user to select from onboard electronic memory one or more rethermalization programs for use by an onboard integrated control system, or the user may construct a rethermalization program by entering the appropriate parameters. Rethermalization programs provide the instructions necessary to enable the integrated control system to rethermalize selected food items located on the trays. The program tells the integrated control system when rethermalization should be initiated (by turning on the heaters located in the heater shelves), the desired temperature that should be reached during rethermalization, and when rethermalization should be completed. Since the integrated control system, user interface, rethermalization heaters, and refrigerator are all located onboard the cart, the system can be programmed at the kitchen where the food is loaded into the cart, or it can be programmed at a remote location after the cart has been loaded.