School supply chain problems afflict cafeterias, forcing administrators to rush to prepare food items

Supply chain problems that are affecting across the nation are leaving schools with a shortage of food items such as syrup packets, utensils, and utensils.

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Turkey for tacos and chicken products including orange juice as well as meal traytrays are only some of the products that Shonia Hall director of school nutrition service for Oklahoma City Public Schools, has said she is unable to find.

Another victim to the slowdown in the supply chain is the cafeteria at school, which has left the nutrition department scrambling to put adequate meals ready for the students before they go back to class.

A couple of months ago, the distributor of Hall's was unable to find spoons, sporks or forks, and she was forced go to her neighborhood Sam's Club to buy 60,000 of each "to get us through for a few days in hopes the truck would show up," Hall told when she spoke to the media.

"We can't just hope. We have to be proactive," she explained. It's impossible to feed children without any utensils, can you?"

The problem of shortages, and having to use retailers to help fill the gap when distributors do not show up are becoming more commonplace in schools across the nation.

"It's an additional cost to your budget, to your program," Hall said. Hall She adds that she's grateful to her participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National School Lunch Program, that has increased its funding for schools that are trying to cater to the needs of their customers.

The crunch is coming at the most inconvenient timing to eat school meals.

The waiver for meal service called"the "Seamless Summer Option" has been extended to June 2022. These waivers allow schools to provide meals at no cost for students. Republicans within Congress have opposed the plan that was made by Democrats to ensure that universal free meals are permanent due to the potential cost.

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This week, this week, President Joe Biden announced three of the biggest U.S. transportation companies, Walmart, FedEx and UPS will intensify their efforts to tackle issues with supply chains after retailers have already started warning about products that may not make it onto the shelves in time for the holiday season.

"Never again should our country and our economy be unable to make critical products we need because we don't have access to materials to make that product," Biden declared in a speech on Wednesday.

Backups in logistics at ports of entry caused by shortages of workers and Covid epidemics have increased the time it takes certain products to be shipped through Asia into the U.S.

"Well, we're struggling, you know, we can get food, but we're having a lot of outages and shortages," said Stephanie Dillard, child nutrition director at Enterprise City Schools in Alabama.

This school has had to deal with unreliable delivery of food and other supplies such as utensils and trays and utensils, which adds an additional pressure on school staff returning from a year that was mostly external learning because of the Covid pandemic.

"Every week everybody is holding their breath, not knowing whether we're going to get a truck or not because we don't know if there's going to be truck drivers or there's going to be employees in the distributors' warehouses," Dillard declared during an interview.

Schools served nearly 500 million meals every month from September 2018 through May 2019. The figure dropped in the school year that was plagued by pandemics to around 330 million lunches each month according to USDA.

Alongside the higher reimbursement rates, in addition to allowing higher reimbursement rates, USDA gives schools more flexibility in achieving food guidelines, and has extended the waiver to the entire nation until the 2021-22 school term to provide all meals for free of cost.

Brenton Lexvold, a food service director at Red Wing Public Schools in Minnesota The director said that he's observed more than 62 percent of students participating of the lunch programs for students, and has observed an increase in the number of students who eat breakfast.

If schools don't consistently serve the food that they've promised parents and students is available the family won't believe they can provide the meals.

"Sometimes the customers are kind of taking a gamble of saying, 'Well, do I eat school lunch today or am I packing something from home?'" Lexvold stated in an interview.

The food service distribution sector has an estimated 17500 warehouse positions , and 15,000 driver positions that are currently open as per the International Foodservice Distributors Association. In an earlier survey of members of trade associations 100 percent of the respondents stated that it was difficult or difficult to locate driver and warehouse positions.