Flexibility in the Face of Supply Chain Issues
The supply chain is an integral part of the modern food supply. We depend on supply chains to manage supply and demand fluctuations, provide us with a variety of foods from around the world, and keep prices reasonable. Unfortunately, we're in the midst of supply chain issues that are leading to higher prices for consumers and shortages in certain products. In this blog post, we will discuss the flexibility in the face of supply chain issues and how they affect school nutrition as well as young children in general.
Dynamic school meal programs are at the forefront of school nutritional issues. These school meal programs must deal with supply chain, food safety, and labor issues just like any other supply chain. On top of that, school meal program administrators are tasked with providing balanced meals to children - which means they need to ensure that there is a sufficient amount of each type of product available each school day.
Although school meal programs are dynamic, school children are not. This means that school meals must be flexible to meet students where they are. There is no need for school meal programs to serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day if only a fraction of the student population has nut allergies. When there is a shortage in certain types of school meals, school nutrition programs must be able to substitute items with others within their program's guidelines.
Issues Occurring Within the Supply Chain
The school meal supply chain is a complex web of suppliers, school meal program providers (including school districts and food service companies), and receiving institutions. However, there are recent issues disrupting the supply chain and getting healthy meals to our students.
Not Enough Product Available for Distribution
An issue that occurs within the school meal supply chain is not having enough product available for distribution. This can lead to shortages or chronic product shortages. This issue may come about because of inadequate planning by the school meal program provider, logistical problems with transporting products, or issues with production schedules. When it comes to school nutrition programs, product availability is often determined by contracts between schools and suppliers and current market conditions. A lack of adequate transportation to school meal programs can delay school meals at school districts. This is one example of how school meal supply chain nutrition issues can affect school children. When school meal programs rely on contracted suppliers, product delivery delays may compromise the school lunch menus.
Fluctuating Prices for Products
This leads us to another issue with school meal supply chains - fluctuating prices for products. Food items are subject to change in price due to market shifts and other factors outside the control of schools. It's important for school meal program providers to know how much they will have to spend when contracting for food, especially for perishable food items. Foodservice companies that provide most or all of the ingredients incorporated into school meal menus must provide school menus at a reasonable price and ensure that there is enough product available for school districts.
Labor Shortages, High Turnover, and Need for Additional Staff
It should come as no surprise that school meal supply chains can also face labor issues such as labor shortages, high turnover rates, and the need for additional labor to accommodate school meal programs. Labor shortages can hinder school nutrition operations because it may be difficult or impossible to execute school lunch service according to expected timelines or receive products on time from contracted suppliers. When school nutrition programs require more than one person per shift, school kitchen managers and other school foodservice professionals will have an even greater challenge meeting school menu requirements and fulfilling their daily responsibilities promptly.
Students Still Need Nutritious Meals Despite These Issues
School nutrition programs are contingent upon school meal supply chains to provide children with healthy meals. We know all too well that the school supply chains can be vulnerable to problems that come along such as fluctuations in product prices, delayed receipt of school meals, inadequate transportation for products, and labor issues. It is the role of school nutrition professionals to monitor and manage school foodservice operations closely at all levels to ensure that students receive nutritious school meals daily.