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Several Kansas City-area school districts report lunch-supply issues

School Lunch
Posted at 4:17 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 18:13:51-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Several Kansas City-area school districts are informing parents of delays and work-a-rounds associated with a supply chain crunch involving school lunches.

Parents in the North Kansas City, Liberty, Blue Valley and Hickman Mills school districts have been notified about temporary changes the districts are making around school lunches.

North Kansas City Schools – the largest district on the Missouri side of the metro with 21,000 students – told parents this week that two of its food distributors have been unable to fill orders due to supply chain issues.

That’s left the district to rely on just one distributor. As a result, the district has had to make some substitutions on menus. And while the district makes every effort to ensure all students have the same lunch options, the shortage could sometimes mean students eating later don’t have the same options as students who ate earlier.

The district told parents that they’ve offered to transport the food themselves but have learned the issue is far more complex than just distribution.

“As we advocate for change, we simply ask for your patience and continued support,” the district told parents. “North Kansas City Schools will make every effort to serve delicious, healthy school meals that fuel our students’ success.”

Officials in the Liberty Public Schools District said they are feeling the pinch, especially when it comes to milk and juice supplies. The district is asking parents to send their children to school with water bottles in case milk and juice are unavailable.

“It is our hope that these challenges are short-term and we are back to providing a full menu of food and drink items very soon,” the district told parents this week.

Spokespeople with the Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, public school districts said they have not been affected by the school lunch distribution issues.

Meanwhile, parents in the Hickman Mills School District were notified this week that the district might have to make some last-minute changes to its menus based on product availability.

“We ask for patience and grace as we sort through these supply-chain issues, knowing in advance that we may not have the same number of menu choices typically offered to our students,” the district said.

Many of the Kansas City school districts cited a nationwide supply chain strain that’s affected school districts across the country.

In a letter to parents Friday, officials in the Olathe School District said nationwide supply chain issues are "making it challenging to obtain products in the quantities needed for our menu."

The district also said it's facing staffing shortages within its own food services division, leaving middle and high school students unable to purchase a la carte options or pay for a second entree.

"It is our hope that we can remedy this situation as staffing increases in our food services division," the district said.

Staffing shortages are also playing a role in the distribution chain.

Sysco, one of the country's largest food distributors, said Friday in a statement the industry is facing an "unprecedented labor shortage."

"We are aggressively recruiting delivery partners and warehouse associates, and our goal is to restore service to our impacted customers as soon as possible," a Sysco spokesperson said. "We expect this to be a temporary situation."

In June, the School Nutrition Association said it reached out to the United States Department of Agriculture after noticing “worsening supply chain disruptions in the school nutrition industry.”

In late August, the SNA followed up with the USDA with a series of recommendations calling on the easing of certain monitoring and reporting requirements around food procurement and meal planning.