School lunch shortages impact MPS, plus 200 food service vacancies

A nutritional lunch is always important for school kids, but when the options become slim, district leaders must adjust. School districts in southeast Wisconsin are dealing with food supply shortages and asking for patience.

For some students, lunchtime is their favorite time of the day, but for food service staff, it's become a challenging course.

"Delayed orders, not getting the quantities that we’re ordering and substitutions," said Cheryl Herman, food service coordinator, Racine Unified School District.

Supply chain shortages are impacting school lunches across southeastern Wisconsin.

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"With substitutions, we’ve had situations where we’ve been forced to take things that we don’t typically serve, but it was something we could get a quantity that we needed," said Herman.

Herman said they've stopped printing menus due to last-minute changes and orders coming in short. While it's frustrating for some parents, Herman said staff is doing the best they can to become creative with ingredients available.

"You’re expecting something to arrive on the truck because your menus are planned for that day, your packing line is ready to run and you’re unloading the truck and realizing you’ve ordered 15 cases of something and you’ve gotten five," said Herman.

The shortage also makes it difficult to accommodate students with allergies.  Milwaukee Public Schools is working with vendors on a weekly basis.

"We have seen some issues with the food supply where we are making changes to the menus," said Omer Abdullah, director for nutrition services, MPS. "Our menus have been fluid, so we are making changes as they come, but it has not been severe at this point."

The district's biggest challenge has been staffing.

"We started the school year with about 200 vacancies in the Food Service Department, and we are working very hard with our HR Department to fill those vacancies," said Abdullah.

Both school districts are hiring. MPS has a job fair scheduled for Nov. 6 at North Division High School. 

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