School cafeterias see food supply challenges

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, S.C. — Recent reports say that across the country school cafeteria’s are facing a food supply issue. News13 spoke with Florence School District 3 (FSD3) on what issues they are facing and how they are combatting it.

“So many of the manufacturers that provide us with those products because of their labor force and the challenges they are faces they have to shut production down,” Valerie Mouzon, FSD3 Food Service Supervisor says.

Mouzon says the district is currently experiencing shortages in paper supply, portion containers, and breaded chicken. She further explained that SC Nutrition Directors have been notified in recent weeks and that they would see some price increases and production challenges with items such as Whole Muscle Chicken Products which are whole pieces of meat used to make chicken patties & chicken nuggets. Driving factors are due to rise in cost of ingredients, cooking oils, packaging, labor, supplies and freight. 

But with the issues, FSD3 food services are being proactive by using the supply they have and making menu options for kids come the start of the school year.

“To help reduce some of the worries, I am really thankful for the USDA Commodities and the DOD Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program.  It is through these programs, FSD3 can continue to provide our students with healthy and nutritious meals cooked from scratch in our schools,” Mouzon says. “We actually do a lot of scratch cooking in here at Florence School District 3 and so there’s multiple recipes that we can utilize those raw products in to produce a good or provide a good menu item for our children,” Mouzon continues.

Below is a statement from Chartwells K12 that covers food supply for both Florence 1 and 2:

At Chartwells, we’ve been closely monitoring the supply chain and for months have been working on plans to minimize the impact of any national supply chain issues. While we anticipate there may be more frequent menu changes based on product substitutions from our suppliers, students and families can continue to count us for great-tasting meals kids love to eat every day. Some of the proactive steps we’ve taken, include:

  • In June, we planned menus for the first four weeks school this fall and placed orders for food at that time. This is designed to help suppliers and distributors plan for stock we need for this Fall.
  • We’ve identified alternate suppliers and products where we found that existing ones wouldn’t be able to meet our needs. For example, we learned our previous supplier for pizza dough would not be able to commit to serving our schools, so we contracted with a new one that can.
  • In many cases, our teams have also changed ordering schedules to allow distributors more time to identify new sources for out-of-stock products in the event it occurs.

If there’s one thing the past 18 months has proven, it’s that flexibility is in our DNA.  From turning cafeteria operations into emergency feeding programs overnight when the pandemic hit to serving kids in classrooms and through meal-kit pick up sites through the past school year, our team is skilled at quickly adapting to ensure that kids are always fed.

As we head back-to-school, we’ll be working even more closely with our suppliers and distributors to navigate ongoing challenges of this pandemic. We will also continue to update our Nutrislice app in real-time so families can get the latest information on menus, nutrition facts and other information about meals we’re serving every day.

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