Utah school lunch programs facing labor shortages, supply chain disruptions


Trays of food at a school cafeteria. (KOIN)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Like many other industries, school food service programs are facing challenges from supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. Utah schools are seeing the impacts too, but officials say it is being addressed.

Many schools districts – some already struggling with a lack of substitute teachers – are struggling to hire enough staff to fully operate their school food service program, according to the Utah State Board of Education. The challenges are forcing many foodservice programs to rethink their menu choices, make food substitutions, reduce meal service options, and even use ‘regular’ trays and cutlery as a response.

Utah schools are reducing menu variety and meal service options, as well as making frequent menu changes. The Board of Education uses chicken as an example – while the chicken processing industry has been facing shortages for some time, from the winter storms in Texas to labor shortages. This means orange chicken, a favorite meal during school lunches, is appearing on the menu less frequently.

The Board of Education’s Child Nutrition staff is working with school food service programs statewide and with partners throughout the country to understand the challenges they face, provide support, and find solutions.

“We commend everyone involved at the districts and schools for their dedication to support and provide well-balanced meals to students throughout the state.  We appreciate parent and student support of the school food service program during these challenging times.  School food service programs play a critical role in education,” the Board of Education says.

If you are interested in working in school nutrition, you are encouraged to speak with your local school, human resource, or school food service department.

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