School districts continue to deal with food supply shortages
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Last year’s big hurdle for schools was dealing with COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic. This year for many, it’s been trying to navigate ongoing food supply shortages.
The shortage has been a problem before the school year even began, and it’s only worsened since. The Harrisburg School District had to land on it’s feet in September, after being dropped by their food vendor. But so far, Child Nutrition Director Chris Beach said they’ve managed about as well as they can.
“We were lucky enough to find a vendor that took a chance on us, us being a very large school district in the state. It was quite the task for them.” said Beach.
But while they did find another company to take them on, the supply situation hasn’t improved, with the situation only worsening, with now more severe effects popping up this month.
“We’re still struggling, and we struggle week to week with getting products in and making sure that we have enough products to serve our kids.” said Beach.
Harrisburg is far from the only district affected by the ongoing supply shortage, and it’s affecting big and small districts alike. In it’s December newsletter, Superintendent Daniel Hoey stated that the West Central School District is still seeing an ongoing supply issue that’s affecting food service. He notes that it’s taken considerable effort from staff to keep meals running smoothly.
Beach said to try and minimize the disruption, the district will be cutting back on the options of food it offers. He said many processed and breaded items will be cut back at least through this month.
“What we’re doing is we’re taking a real, hard look at our menus. One, we may not have the breadth of choices that we’ve had in the past. We’re going to consolidate down to a minimal amount of choices on product that we can get.”
He said what they are finding in supply is raw ingredients, to try and make up for those lost items and make them in house. But that presents a different problem, as they currently don’t have enough kitchen staff to fill that task as well.
“What that does is turn it around, and now we rely on labor, more labor. Which unfortunately right now, labor is in short supply. So we’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place when we start to look at those types of things.”
Beach said Harrisburg will continue to provide meals to students that meet USDA guidelines, though he said that will continue to be a challenge long-term.
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