Providing school meals has become significantly more difficult this year as school meals participation has increased. Adding to the challenges are COVID-19-related disruptions to school food service manufacturing, supply, and distribution channels. These disruptions result in frequent menu changes, reduced menu variety, and changes in meal service options. The most common problems are discontinued menu items, shortages, longer-than-normal lead times, significantly higher costs compared with pre-pandemic bids, delayed deliveries or deliveries that contain a portion of what was ordered.
In addition to supply-chain disruptions, many of our Nebraska school districts struggle with staff shortages, and these staffing limitations may restrict menu choices, reduce meal service options, and can impact the use of traditional service ware such as trays and cutlery.
These factors create unprecedented challenges for food service operators across Nebraska and there is no sign of relief coming soon. The foodservice industry predicts supply chain disruptions and staffing difficulties will persist well into 2022.
Nebraska school food service programs are continuing to provide students with nutritious meals. These meals may not be the same as what was planned due to the difficulties outlined above. Your understanding of these challenges faced by Nebraska school food service operators is appreciated.