Supply chain issues impacting school lunches in Central Florida

Districts are having hard time finding utensils, paper products

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – The supply chain problem isn’t just impacting how much you pay at the grocery store, it’s now hitting Central Florida school districts and what they are able to serve your children at lunch.

“If you go to our schools, you will see in our storerooms and our freezers and coolers we have food,” Food and Nutrition Services Director for Flagler County schools Angie Bush said.

Bush said the district plans the menu a year in advance. She said right now, they’re having the hardest time finding utensils, paper products and some foods.

“If we go to other suppliers outside of our normal suppliers and the cost increases are quite substantial,” she said.

To help school systems, the USDA announced $1.5 billion in some reimbursements.

“So, we’re allowed to purchase things off bid for emergency purposes if we need to and that’s been very helpful. The challenge is that we’re all doing it,” Bush said.

Orange, Volusia, Marion, Sumter, and Seminoles counties all sent News 6 statements saying they’re in the same boat.

Truck driver and labor shortages are leading to the supply shortage. No one’s running out of food but there might be a change in what’s on the menu any given day.

It’s stressful on those planning like Bush and the school kitchen staff.

“At any of our schools we could be serving 700 students a lunch on a given day and that’s not easy to pull that amount of food together to create something at the last minute,” she said.

RESPONSES:

MARION COUNTY

Marion County Public Schools has struggled to get chicken products that are normal, everyday purchases. Bread products are also becoming more difficult to obtain.

Yes, we have encountered shipping issues for reasons ranging from not enough truck drivers to not enough food products available. This has been going on for several months.

To compensate, we make menu changes that still allow nutritionally balanced meals to be served to our students.

SUMTER COUNTY

We have had some issues related to the supply chain. We have had to limit some of the choices that students have previously been able to make, so the variety that we used to have has been cut down. We have had to make some concessions regarding deliveries, such as the times we receive and how often we receive our deliveries due to the availability of drivers to get the goods to us.

I’m sure that it is going to affect us more significantly in the coming months and we will adjust so that we can get the students their meals each day.

VOLUSIA COUNTY

The supply chain has affected Volusia County Schools.

The demand for truck drivers means that our deliveries are significantly delayed—that could be for regularly occurring supplies like paper products to classroom furniture to steel.

We are maintaining elevated inventory for critical items like hand soap, paper towels, and toilet paper to ensure we don’t run short.

Taking delivery of furniture or other capital outlay items has been delayed by weeks or months.

The increase in raw material costs like steel, aluminum, copper and plywood is a direct result of the lack of material availability.

We are making it work, but we are having to be adaptable and patient, given the global supply chain challenges.

As for food, we are still getting most foods, but in some cases if there is a shortage of a certain food, it would be replaced with something else. That’s why our menus on our district website are sometimes different from what students are served.’

ORANGE COUNTY

Currently the school district’s food service program is experiencing food supply chain issues. Like other food service, some items may be late or not arrive. The industry is experiencing a shortage of labor, trucks, drivers, packaging and even pallets. The students are getting the planned products, but they may be served on different days than scheduled. The district is NOT running short of food. Our fresh produce and dairy products come from Florida, so there are no issues with that. For example, currently there is a shortage of mozzarella cheese so we will not be making our own pizza. We will however continue to serve pizza that comes pre-made. There is also a shortage of chicken, so we may not be able to serve wings or drumsticks, but we will still offer chicken sandwiches.

SEMINOLE COUNTY

Throughout the pandemic and social/environmental challenges, the Red Apple Dining team has continued to serve nutritious and delicious meals each school day and beyond. Freshly prepared breakfast and lunch meals are available to all students attending class on campus and through our drivethru locations (for remote learners). We have never run out of food or cancelled meal periods and all student guests have a variety of meal options each day. Accomplishing this has required some modifications to our procurement, logistics and service processes and extraordinary efforts by the Red Apple Dining and supportive teams.

Some of the items we typically purchase have been unavailable or in short supply. However, we have been able to leverage our great relationships with supply partners to find other high-quality foods and beverages.

At times production and shipping have been delayed. In these cases, we may make a menu modification. The most up-to-date menus can be found on our website, RedAppleDining.com. In addition, in-school announcements are made to inform guest of menu offerings.

Yes, we have significantly less team member than prior to the pandemic. We have made some thoughtful changes to increase efficiencies while we recruit additional team members. For example, we have streamlined the menu and modified service points to enable fewer team member to serve a record number of guests who are enjoying the support of free meals. Guests continue to have a variety of high quality meal choices made fresh for them each day

Check out the Florida Foodie podcast. You can find every episode in the media player below:


Use the form below to sign up for the ClickOrlando.com Florida Foodie newsletter, sent every other Wednesday.


About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.