have supply chain issues Forcing Southern California school districts to revamp their menus to compensate for current and expected Lack of popular foods.
Hamburger. Chicken Patties. These and other lunchtime staples have become harder to come by lately.
Due to labor shortages from the coronavirus pandemic, food production and delivery industries are hurting, and roadblocks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are causing delays in unloading all types of cargo.
As one San Bernardino county district states, many school systems have long been burdened with requests from vendors, with demand for some items currently exceeding supply.
And relief is still a way away.
But there are mouths to feed today, tomorrow and every day – for the rest of this school year.
Since the start of the 2021-22 academic calendar, nutrition services staff in Southern California have worked to ensure that hundreds of thousands of students get the nutrition they need, regardless of what has been planned and that will eventually last a minute. Changes ranging from 1 minute to 1 minute are being distributed. next.
“We’re working magic to make this happen,” said Diana Meza, a spokeswoman for Riverside Unified School District. “But all the schools are doing this. There’s a lot more preparation involved.”
Schools get creative with menus
The Riverside District serves about 32,000 meals a day, Meja said, and while some loopholes make it more difficult than ever to secure student favorites like hamburgers and chicken patties, officials are buying more local fruits and vegetables.
In recent months, district officials have had to purchase hamburger patties and chicken from various vendors – at higher-than-usual prices – to put the items on the menu.
If one seller is out of something, he’s on to the next.
“We figure out ways to do that,” Meja said.
The district authorities are also having to wait a very long time for the products that they can get.
“Orders used to be on a weekly basis with a lead time of two weeks,” said Riverside’s director of nutrition services, Adlit Assi. “We now order weekly with a lead time of eight weeks.”
As such, Riverside Unified executives find themselves ordering more than they can use so they can have supplies for weeks to come.
ASI has heard of items being purchased at Costco and other wholesale grocers in other districts.
In all her years in school nutrition, she hasn’t seen such a pinch.
“Right now,” said Meja, “everyone is getting creative.”
Favorites ‘nearly impossible’
Even advanced planning at Rialto could not prepare school district officials for the challenges posed by supply-chain issues, Diane Romo, principal business services agent for the Rialto Unified School District, wrote in an email.
“Our district is fortunate that our nutrition program cooks many of the items offered to our students from the very beginning,” he said. But, “the already complex daily production of school food has been complicated by non-availability of ingredients such as beef, cheese, spices and even fresh produce.”
As a result, Romo said, the scarcity of the product has made it “nearly impossible” to craft favorite items.
As a result, the menu is changed several times a week.
“We used to have a lot of diversity,” said Vivian Watts, executive director of Food and Nutrition Services at the Alhambra Unified School District, which serves more than 16,300 students.
In the past, Alhambra High Schools had a Bobo food bar with ramen, pho, Korean tacos, Mexican street tacos, and other items.
Such options are no longer available “because we are not sure we can get supplies,” Watts said.
It really bothers him.
“It’s really heartbreaking for us because we want to provide the best food possible for our kids,” Watts said. “We can only put on the menu what we know we can get.”
Trays, utensils too short supply
Shortages and delays due to supply-chain issues are not just for food items.
Watts said Alhambra Unified recently received a grant to buy barbecue equipment at its high schools to make things like grilled chicken patties, hamburger patties and hot links.
“But we could not get the equipment because of supply-chain issues.”
Watts allowed that the challenge includes things like trays, utensils, and napkins, which is why menu items are specially pre-wrapped for now.
Other districts also face similar challenges.
“Many paper products have become completely unavailable, with no estimated delivery times,” Romo said.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest district, provided more than 140 million meals at no cost to students, families, and community members at Districtwide Grab-and-Go Food Centers, spokeswoman Shannon said. be provided. Haber wrote in an email.
Now, with students back on campus, food has been affected due to the paucity of packaging, supplies and workers.
L.A. Integrated officials have meanwhile been able to buy paper products, Haber said, but prices have climbed.
Additionally, with food processors facing supply chain and labor shortages – which have affected their production – L.A. Unified has had to find alternatives to many regular products, such as apple sauce, pre-made entrees and Freshly chopped vegetables.
Haber said prices of some products have increased by up to 25%.
And yet, in this school year, food has been provided to the students at no cost.
“This commitment to our students never wavers,” Haber said.
schools want solutions
Watts has an idea.
How do elementary school students bring their utensils and empty containers from home?
“I think it’s going to be sustainable because kids in the past, if they brought any food from home, they had to bring containers and utensils anyway, right?” he said. “So now we’re just asking them to bring the blanks and we’ll provide the food.”
In its infancy, Watts said the program would likely encourage students by offering school supplies.
Simplicity is the name of the game in these unprecedented times.
“The innovative minds of the Nutrition Services staff are challenged to harness their creativity and deliver the best possible food for our students,” Romo said.
And the district, she said, “continues to receive positive feedback from our students and educational partners.”
Staff writers Robert Morales and Lynn Tait contributed to this report.