Supply chain issues causing problems for Arizona school cafeterias

Oct 25, 2021, 4:45 AM
(File photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)...
(File photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
(File photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — School cafeterias across the Valley are struggling to come up with breakfast and lunch menus, and they’re blaming supply chain problems for that.

“Some of our biggest issues have been the wait times to get products in,” said Sabrina Kvavle, food nutrition director for Mesa Public Schools.

“Instead of one to two weeks, it can now be up to 15 weeks.”

Kvavle said manufacturers have also reduced the items they sell to a bare minimum because of supply and labor issues. Some manufacturers, for example, typically have 12 chicken products. Now, they only have a handful.

“One of the things we’re having to do now is we meet weekly as a team, and we have to make menu changes for the next week,” she said.

The district is also being hit with price increases almost weekly. Kvavle said some items are costing up to 40% more.

The Alhambra Elementary School District is facing similar long delays and limited supply issues.

Brienne Ross, the district’s child nutrition director, said school cafeterias are also having to make last-minute changes to their menus.

“There have been a few days that we know that students really look forward to an item and we’ve been really sad if it doesn’t come in and we can’t serve,” Ross said.

In some cases, the district had to pivot to other manufactures to keep serving the same food items on their menu.

Ross said chicken products and paperware, such as plates and cups, have been especially hard to get.

Kvavle said those products have been very hard to find for her district as well, in addition to breakfast items.

She said it’s because most of those items come from overseas, and they’re getting stuck at the ports for weeks or months at a time.

Kvavle added equipment, such as milk coolers or ice machines, that used to ship in four to six weeks are now taking five to eight months.

“We’re ordering things now for next school year at the beginning of this school year,” Kvavle said.

Both Ross and Kvavle stressed their districts are doing their best to work around the supply chain issues to ensure students are still getting a full, nutritious meal.

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Supply chain issues causing problems for Arizona school cafeterias