School districts in Central Florida overcoming challenges from supply chain issues

It seems like every day we’re telling you about supply chain issues impacting some aspect of life. FOX 35 has spent some time digging into the issue and found school districts across Central Florida are navigating those challenges. 

While districts have food, there have been impacts as to what is easily available. 

The menu for Wednesday, November 17th at Blue Lake Elementary lists pepperoni cheese bread, broccoli and fruit for lunch…hopefully.

"Know that the menus are subject to change," said Heather DeMeola, School Way Café Director. "We try to keep that limited as much as we can, but this is out of our hands." 

Heather DeMeola runs services for Volusia County and says backlogs and shortages mean suppliers don’t always have the food or paper goods ordered, distributors often lack manpower for deliveries, and districts' grocery lists are way more expensive. 

"One particular product is gone 52 dollars a case," said DeMeola."I did the math and it’s about 56,000 additional costs for the year" 

Fox 35 checked in with Orange County, Lake County, Marion County, and Seminole County as well and all report supply chain issues. 

Orange County Public Schools:

"Please note that as a result of the nationwide supply chain issues, we have seen a 12$% increase in overall costs and are receiving about 75% of our total orders."

Lake County Public Schools:

"In Lake, we have been seeing shortages and we are making substitutions as needed. Paper supplies have become more of an issue for us than food, though. We have open cafeteria positions, but fortunately we have had a steady stream of applicants." 

Marion County Public Schools: 

"Marion County Public Schools has struggled to get chicken products that are normal, everyday purchases. Bread products are also becoming more difficult to obtain. Yes, we have encountered shipping issues for reasons ranging from not enough truck drivers to not enough food products available. This has been going on for several months. To compensate, we make menu changes that still allow nutritionally-balanced meals to be served to our students."

As recently as Thursday morning, Seminole County’s Red Apple Dining Services reported coordinating an emergency order of cheese from a different supplier after an order from the original supplier could not be fulfilled – and it’s not the first quick measure or creative solution taken to make sure your child is fed. 

"When one of our deliveries didn’t arrive recently, they made fresh buns for us and had them delivered," said Richard Miles, Assistant Director of Red Apple Dining, "and this was in less than a 48 hour." 

"Manufacturer wasn’t sending nachos because they were behind on production," said Demeola, "So, some schools had tacos on soft shells – some had tacos on hard shells. We’re just trying to make last minute adjustments."

The district serves upwards of 15,000 school breakfast meals each day and upwards of 41,000 school lunches.

In response, The USDA recently announced plans to distribute 1.5 billion dollars to schools this winter to help with things like more expensive food costs or hiring new suppliers. 

Staffing shortages and more students to feed is another issue impacting districts this school year. The federal government issued waivers so all students can eat free this year. 

In Volusia, the district is reporting a shortage of about 26 cafeteria workers. Seminole County is reporting a shortage by about 100 workers.

If you’re interested in learning more about job availability or applying for positions, click the sites below. 

Seminole County – Red Apple Dining:

Volusia County – School Way Café: