Operations

4 ways K-12 operators are tackling supply and labor shortages

Attendees of the School Nutrition Association’s recent Legislative Action Conference were full of ideas on how to combat both issues.
Legislative Action Conference attendees listen to a supply chain panel during one of the conference's general sessions.
Photo: Benita Gingerella

As supply chain and labor challenges drag on, attendees of the School Nutrition Association’s recent Legislative Action Conference were quick to share how they’ve been working to keep their operations running. Here are some ideas K-12 operators have implemented during this challenging time.

1. Procurement office hours

Georgia School Nutrition, an agency within the Georgia Department of Education,launched a program called Procurement Connections, which allows school nutrition staff throughout the state to meet with the Georgia School Nutrition team and discuss how to solve procurement issues. “It’s kind of like office hours for procurement,” says State School Nutrition DirectorLinette Dodson.

2. Extra family engagement

Meal participation has grown at South Lyon Community Schools in South Lyon, Mich., during the pandemic. To help guide families with students who were dining with the district for the first time, the nutrition director created a newsletter called the Lunch Lady Lowdown, which kept readers up to date on menu changes, meal pattern regulations, special events and more. 

3. Meeting in the middle with distributors

At Great Valley School District in Malvern, Pa., the nutrition team has been focusing on enhancing their communication with distributors to improve their relationships with current vendors and also attract other vendors to work with their program.

For example, the district recently met with their distributor to converse about each other’s top needs and see if there was any way to find a middle ground.

During the discussions, the team learned that their distributor would prefer to do centralized deliveries and have their delivery window expanded. While the nutrition team was unable to do centralized deliveries, they could expand their delivery window. This compromise was a success, and by working to find a middle ground with distributors, the district said that three other vendors have now submitted proposals to do business with the district.

4. Changing up staffing hours

Also at Great Valley School District, Food and Nutrition Services Supervisor Nicole Melia says she has been looking at changing staffing hours to help attract potential employees who may be looking to work full-time.

“I don't need a full-time person in my kitchen,” she says. “I really only need somebody there from 8 to 2, but could I have someone there from 2 to 4 prepping for the next day?”

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