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Local school districts making last-minute menu changes as they face food shortages caused by the pandemic

Posted at 2:31 PM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 19:18:54-04

APPLETON (NBC 26) — Due to supply chain issues with distributors and the lingering workers shortage, local school districts are experiencing a food shortage.

Appleton Area School District Food Service is seeing a shortage of everything from processed foods to fruits and vegetables, forcing last-minute menu changes when food orders simply don't show up.

"Our distributors try to give us prior notice when we are going to have items that are shorted but they always can't provide that service," said Chartwells resident district manager Darann Morgan. "So a lot of time it just doesn't show up on our truck."

When items don't arrive on their daily deliveries, food service workers often have to substitute one item for another or change their meal plan for the day.

"Let's say the peppers don't show up. We usually have things like carrot sticks or celery sticks or cauliflower in the school. So we are able to provide that instead of that one thing that didn't show up or we are able to use what we were going to use the next day and then order more food to come in," Morgan said.

The issue is made more complicated by the fact that the schools have to adhere to USDA nutritional guidelines. That's why since the start of the pandemic, schools have been given waivers that allow them to substitute certain items due to food shortages.

"The USDA has provided us with waivers. For example, we usually have to provide certain types of vegetables through the week and they've provided us with waivers so we don't have to provide all the different subgroups," Morgan said.

Morgan says the school district doesn't normally notify families of menu changes unless the schools have to change a main entree. However, with no end to the food shortage in sight, she says the school district is planning to notify parents that they may begin to experience more menu changes in the coming months.

"We are sending out communication with families on Friday to let them know that they may see this more often as we move through the next few months," Morgan said.

Appleton Area School District Families with questions can contact Chartwells Food Service at 920-832-1719.