Effects of global supply chain disruptions have been felt across the nation and are now evidenced in what is — or isn’t — on school lunch trays.
Ogilvie Schools Food Director Linda Hass said she’s had difficulty receiving fresh fruits and vegetables. Other schools have had difficulty acquiring eggs. Mora Public Schools Nutrition Director Cally Hanson said she can’t find oranges or her usual breads.
These challenges are happening in school cafeterias across the United States and it all boils down to supply and demand.
Supply and Demand
When the pandemic first took hold of the nation, restaurants closed and fewer students received meals from schools. The demand for products drastically decreased for commercial food suppliers. As demand fell, suppliers reduced staff.
When schools reopened this fall demand quickly returned.
As part of the federal governments coronavirus relief, U.S. Department of Agriculture extended the Seamless Summer Option which offers free meals to students throughout the nation.
Furthermore, parents do not need to complete any paperwork or meet any low-income requirements in order for their students to receive free meals.
Meanwhile, all parts of the supply chain have struggled to keep up from a reduced availability of raw ingredients, as well as a labor shortage that impacts production and shipping of products.
Weather-related disruptions have had an impact as well. Hanson said the drought has made it difficult to acquire fresh produce and hurricanes in the south have made it impossible for her to get fresh oranges. Her usual bread supplier had a plant shut down.
“I place three-to-five different orders per week for various products and spend a minimum of six hours working on substituting items we won’t be receiving,” Hanson said.
In a letter to families dated Sept. 22, Hanson warned parents and students that school menus may change at a moments notice.
“Be assured meals will remain balanced, healthy and plentiful. We ask for patience and understanding as we do our best to meet the needs of your children,” she wrote.
Basic economics tell us that when demand outpaces supply, prices increase. These rising costs have also been a concern for school districts.
“Some of the foods are costing a lot more,” said Hass, who was warned by her supplier to expect costs could increase by 9% over last year.
Feed the students
Hanson said while it has been difficult to manage, she is proud of what her staff has accomplished.
“Our Nutrition Team, along with all the others across the nation, has one goal: Feed the students.
“Reaching that goal isn’t always easy, but I’m proud to say that Mora Schools has fed every hungry belly that comes through our lines.”