Supply chain shortages affect school lunches

ROTTERDAM – When students get their meals at school, they might not realize all the work behind the food.

Running food services takes a lot of dedication and flexibility, and a lot of quick thinking.

At Schalmont right now, there’s a lack of chicken.

Because of supply chain shortages, staff is not really sure what they’re going to be facing each week, and they have to get creative.

"Last week we had a certain pizza item on the menu that was not here, so our cooks had to go and grate cheese, and they did homemade pizzas," said Director of Food Services Renee Heller. "We try to stay within the same pizza item, but we do have to make changes along the way."

Another big shortage has been paper products. They can’t get trays, so they’ve tried plates, bowls, and even bags.

"Our district is very supportive, and they just purchased reusable plastic trays, so we’re very excited about that," said Heller.

"I’m amazed. I have seen so much creative use of supplies, re-purposing different things, even down to trays, using different paper containers instead of trays," said Dr. Thomas Reardon, school superintendent. "But to make it happen, and the fact that I haven’t seen a disruption in the experience and the quality, has been wonderful."

This staff never seems to stop moving.

These days, the demand is higher because breakfast and lunch are offered free of charge.

These meals keep the students going. It’s hard to study on an empty stomach.

Sometimes, distributors put a cap on the amount the school can buy of some items, like French fries.

"So if it’s on the menu in a couple of weeks, and you know you can only get one or two, you have to plan and try to get them so when it is on the menu we’re ready for it," said Heller.

But they can’t stock up too much, because they only have so much storage and freezer space.

It’s all about planning when they can and always being ready to think outside the box.

Any shortage affects a lot of students. On any given day, 800 to 1,000 students come through the cafeteria for breakfast and lunch.