School Impacts on Broken Supply Chain

The pandemic has proven problematic in several aspects of our life and our community. From the way we work, to the way we shop, to the way we consume food. As COVID-19 begins to impact several different industries, it creates a domino effect on aspects of our community we don’t even think of. 

“The pandemic and the economic shutdown are starting to reveal systemic weaknesses in the supply chains that bring food to markets and may be pointing the way towards trouble ahead,” according to S&P Global.

What happens when food plants begin to shut down? How does that impact our families? Better yet, how does that impact the school lunch program and the students?

As school districts prepare for the 2020-2021 school year, they are faced with a lot of unknowns. While schools attempt to abide by social distancing and increased sanitation standards during lunch hours, changes in the supply chain have left school lunch programs with some major concerns: . 

Availability

It is important for districts to consider the availability of food products as they prepare for the school year. 

“Parts of the supply chain have been threatened by COVID-19 and consumers may not be feeling the impacts of the most pronounced disruption yet…,” according to Jan Ellen Spiegel from the CT Mirror. With food processing plants shutting down left and right it is difficult to predict how to plan for the possible lack of food availability. 

Not only is food scarcity a possibility, but the lack of healthy employees is making it difficult to process orders and maintain the necessary timelines to get food out to everyone. This disruption can cause a major impact to the National School Lunch Programs’ 30 billion students it serves. 

Increase in Prices

While there is a processing uncertainty, but with a broken supply chain and limited food availability, there could be a great possibility for major price increases. School districts are currently losing thousands upon thousands of dollars, and at times more, which can significantly affect their budget and in turn impact the school lunch program for the worse. 

“Some food prices, especially for meat, eggs, and dairy, have increased during the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increases are partly due to the disruptions in the food supply chain and changing the demand…” according to ABC News journalist Stephanie Ebbs.

Menu Planning Challenges

Because we are navigating through uncertainty there is no real way of knowing how significant the repercussions will be. School Districts are essentially going in blind–attempting to plan for something that can’t technically be planned. 

“Currently, Sodexo’s K-12 division is analyzing menus that schools were using prior to the COVID-19 crisis and what those menus pivoted to as meal distribution changed in reaction to the crisis. “We’ve been identifying similarities between districts and are currently working with our supply team, our distributor partners, and our vendor partners to make ensure [sic] we have a secured supply of food,” Sodexo Senior Manager, Culinary Offer Implementation Michael Morris says.”

It is now that one must rely on our industry peers for ideas, resources and support. Like Sodexo, districts should work with their partners closer than ever, Talk to your supply team, to your distributor and vendor partners. Plan for the things that can’t really be planned and then make backup plans for those plans. Reach out to others going through the same issues, attend webinars and speak up when you’ve hit challenges. Relying on one another is how our whole industry will get through these unpredictable times.