The state of K-12 foodservice: Staffing struggles continue

Cross-training and other methods have been key to keeping things running in today's tight labor market.
Illustration: Shutterstock

Two-thirds of respondents to FSD's recent K-12 survey say they’re facing a labor shortage.

As operators look for ways to run their programs with smaller teams, some districts, such as Fayetteville City Schools in Fayetteville, Tenn., are turning to volunteers, leaning on teachers, office staff and other in-house employees to fill in when needed.

Others are implementing disposables to cut down on the need for staff to wash trays and servingware.

“[We’re] using disposable containers for serving lunches, since we have no specific dishwasher staffer,” says Allison Hill, food service manager and chef for Villa Academy in Seattle.

Cross-training also remains popular, as almost 75% of survey respondents say they’re utilizing it to fill staffing gaps.

“I am training my team at both elementary and high school in case I have someone off I can move [workers] around” says Tricia Calloni, food service director at Christopher Unit School District 99 in Christopher, Ill. “Also, as a food service director, I do all the paperwork, menus, scheduling, prep work, cook, wash dishes and serve along with the rest of the team.”

Where to find workers

Many operations are thinking outside the box when it comes to recruiting employees. Here are some ideas they’ve put into action.

“[We’re] reaching out to local veterans clubs and other departments to see if they have staff willing to work. [We’re also] working with special education students to train and hire them part time.”

Cassie Davidson
Child Nutrition Director
Yakima School District
Yakima, Wash.

“[When we] see good customer service at fast food, [we talk] to them about applying at the school.”

Leslie Smith
School Nutrition Supervisor
New Kent County Public Schools
New Kent, Va.

“When we interview, we see if there are other positions available that the candidate might be interested in, if they are qualified.” 

Tammy White
Nutrition Services Director
San Jacinto Unified School District
San Jacinto, Calif.

“[We] waived [our] high school diploma requirement [and] added a test instead.”

Cory Talbott
Nutrition Area Supervisor
Prince George’s County Public Schools
Upper Marlboro, Md.

“[We’re] working with local restaurants that may have closed; working with our transportation department to offer additional hours for employees and [bus] drivers who may not be full time. Also working with our aides to give them additional hours.”

Donna Riviello
Food Service Director
Clyde-Savannah Central School District
Clyde, N.Y.

Read more of our 2022 State of K-12 Foodservice report.



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