School meals could change amid supply chain issues

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LIMA – Students returning to school may not see some of their favorite lunch options as school districts make last-minute menu changes and buy alternative products amid supply chain issues that could persist into the new school year.

The shortages affect everything from portioned paper cups and packets of ketchup to the popular pizzas and chicken products that schools buy in bulk.

Schools are adapting quickly to an uncertain supply chain that could take months to recover. And the situation has been made even more complicated by plans to take over schools, which means schools will feed more children than they were at this time last year.

Just last week, schools in Lima were denied an order for hot dogs, packets of ketchup and styrofoam trays, said Carrie Woodruff, director of food services for schools in Lima.

“You have to buy things in bulk and then you try to use the plastic to put those things in and those aren’t available either,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff stocked up on trays and basic supplies last spring in anticipation of supply chain issues. But she’s already seeing shortages of popular items like fries, spicy chicken and prepackaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

If shortages persist, students should expect an ever-changing dining hall: Instead of serving packets of ketchup, schools can offer paper cups for students to fill with condiments.

The platters can be replaced with individually wrapped sandwiches or paper bag lunches.

Lunch for a day can consist of three different types of chicken: popcorn, nuggets or fillets. Or schools can serve stuffed crust pizzas and thin crust pizzas on the same day to make sure everyone is fed when schools aren’t able to buy enough of a single product, Sara said. Newland, Director of Food Services for Elida Schools.

There are other dilemmas as well, such as what to serve children with food allergies when specialized food products are not available, or how to meet federal nutritional standards when there are already shortages of products that schools would serve. generally.

“It’s a challenge to meet these special diets,” Newland said. “So if we don’t have the same products, it changes their ingredients for our gluten-free diets or the same product we’ve always served to our students who count carbs for their diabetes. “

The disruption also takes a long time: there are additional documents for nutritional exemptions; staff may spend hours cleaning trays when disposable trays are not in stock; and purchasing substitutes can be tedious when the alternatives are also exhausted or in limited supply.

Still, parents shouldn’t see the price increases unless their child purchases an a la carte item, Newland said, as the USDA has extended its free lunch program to all students, regardless. their ability to pay.

Students returning to school may not see some of their favorite lunch options as school districts make last-minute changes to their menus and buy alternative products amid supply chain issues that could persist throughout the new school year.


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