After school supplies, school cafeterias are now next in line to suffer from supply chain problems. Labor shortages and delivery problems are inflating costs while limiting supplies. Many school districts are planning to reopen this fall. However, many schools remain struggling to provide full menus for students.
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Supply Chain Problems Lead to Food Shortages For School Cafeterias
This early, school officials are expecting low supplies on almost all food items. Labor shortages and a lack of truckers add to the problem, squeezing already thin budgets. These supply chain problems can prevent school cafeterias from serving hot meals.
The issue comes after a year of closures. Most students went from in-classroom training to remote learning due to the pandemic. With the coming reopening, many school districts now find themselves in trouble.
Manufacturers are cutting production or removing product variants due to capacity issues. Meanwhile, distributors are cutting deliveries, while schools are having trouble hiring cooks.
Shortages Ranger From Corn Dogs To Lunch Trays
Meanwhile, Andy Mercier, chief executive at Merchants Foodservice, anticipates the problem. “We haven’t had a 100% headcount school season in 15 months. It’s going to blow the doors open,” he said. Specifically, schools will miss items such as hamburgers, corn dogs, and other foods.
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Manufacturing plants are short of workers, and production remains stunted. In fact, even school lunch trays are in short supply. Tray manufacturers are prioritizing takeout trays for restaurants.
Then, there are rising transportation costs, labor pressure, and ingredient constraints. These keep budgets strained for many US food makers. The situation warranted a meeting between schools and the US Department of Agriculture. They may need to recalibrate nutritional value and packaging sizes, industry officials said.
Meal Programs During The Pandemic
During the lockdowns, the USDA gave much-needed breathing room to schools. The agency authorized school cafeterias to continue providing free meals to students via pickup.
It also approved the waiving of nutritional requirements such as sodium and grain levels. Some of these changes will continue until June 2022. However, some schools, distributors, and manufacturers may need more help at present.
Meanwhile, suppliers such as the Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative, which buys food for K-12 schools in central Arkansas, adjusted its system. It simplified the menu that uses more of the same raw material like chicken, pasta, and other available staples.
This way, distributors won’t need to buy and stock more items. Priscilla Riedel-Cohan, the program coordinator for Arch Ford, advised other districts to consolidate deliveries and pay suppliers faster to keep vendors operational. In addition, they will keep looking for more suppliers to fill the shortage.
Ease Pressures From Supply Chains
Meanwhile, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service said it’s helping ease pressures across the food supply chain. Even as various products experience shortages, the USDA continues to insist there are no widespread concerns.
Apart from updating supplier issues across the school districts, the agency said it will ensure that students will have the nutrition they need.
Watch the Fox 11 Los Angeles report on California launching largest free school lunch program in the US:
How long do you think the supply chain shortages will affect US school cafeterias? Do you have any short-term solutions in mind?
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