Food supply-chain disruptions impact school meals; menus are subject to change

Nationwide food supply issues, delivery delays and labor shortages are causing Fayetteville-Manlius School District’s lunch menus to change – and sometimes at the last minute.

“We will continue to serve nutritious and healthy meals every day,” F-M Food Service Director Adam Jarosz said. “They could be different meals than what we had planned to serve on a particular day, but we will make sure they are well-balanced.”

National labor shortages are creating widespread impacts on the production, packaging and shipping of some food industry items, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The strain is creating challenges when it comes to ordering, receiving and maintaining adequate inventory of some food items, ingredients and paper supplies at F-M.

“We’re doing a lot of pivoting,” Jarosz said. “The supply-chain disruptions are definitely impacting our operation, but we are finding ways to navigate through the challenges.”

For example, Jarosz said gluten-free sandwich bread and rolls are on backorder with various vendors and suppliers the district works with until at least December. To accommodate students and staff members who require this dietary restriction, food service will prepare protein-based meals that don’t require bread. 

There is also a national shortage of paper products and some disposable items such as trays, cutlery and takeout containers, which many students utilize for on-the-go meals.

Jarosz said it’s helpful to know in advance which items are out of stock, but that often isn’t the case. Sometimes delivery trucks show up without the district’s complete order because, due to shortages, the vendor could not fulfill it. Since the department is not aware of certain shortages until the truck arrives, it makes maintaining inventory and planning menus challenging, Jarosz said.

F-M’s food service program is also grappling with being short-staffed. Several cafeteria and kitchen positions remain unfilled throughout the district, which places a strain on internal production and operations. Since the start of this school year, staff members have been covering various positions to ensure there is no disruption to meal service. Because of this, some amenities such as school Snack Shacks and the high school’s grill station are sometimes closed.

Since the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, the district has provided more than 25,000 school meals to students. Breakfast and lunch meals are free for all students this school year regardless of household income. Students do not need to register to receive free meals; enrollment is automatic.

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