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School cafeterias feeling impacts of supply chain issues

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 6:55 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - School cafeterias in southern Arizona feeling the impacts of supply chain issues. Local districts are experiencing shipping delays and in some cases, are unable to buy some food products at all.

Lindsay Aguilar, the food services director of the Tucson Unified School District, says she’s never experienced anything quite like this in her 17 years with the district.

“We are all looking for hamburger buns, we’re all looking for chicken, for beef,” she said. “It’s definitely a real challenge that all of us throughout the country providing the meal program are having to manage.”

TUSD serves about 30,000 meals a day. Aguilar said the district is fortunate to have a central warehouse where a couple months’ worth of food can be stored and help fill the gaps when certain items don’t arrive. She said smaller districts, who only have a few weeks’ worth of food, are really feeling the burden of the supply chain issues.

“It comes down to, they literally don’t have food to serve that day,” Aguilar said. “It didn’t show up, their order is delayed, the delivery didn’t come in.”

Douglas Unified Schools said utensils and plates are becoming harder to find. The Sunnyside Unified School District said the supply chain issues impacting their cafeteria have become quote, “a daily issue and it has been for quite some time.”

“It’s something I’ve told my team, we’re going to be dealing with this for the rest of the school year,” she said.

Experts in supply chain operations say it all boils down to this

“Supply chain is like a well-oiled machine. Anytime there is a glitch, it messes everything up along the way. I really think is what you’re seeing is, we had inventories to buffer us in almost every industry and now you’re seeing those inventories dry up,” said Ken Gyure, a lecturer for the University of Arizona Management Information Systems.

Local school districts said they’ll continue rolling with the punches and getting creative with their menus until the situation levels back out. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it is giving out more than a billion dollars to help school systems struggling to serve meals.

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