Supply chain issues impacting school lunch for some local districts

Education

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — Supply chain shortages remain an issue nationwide, and now local school districts are feeling the impact when it comes to feeding students.

Marc Furtado, director of finance and operations for Attleboro Public Schools, told 12 News his food service workers are “spinning gold out of yarn” and crossing their fingers every day that they have enough food to provide lunch for more than 3,000 students.

“It’s a daily challenge,” Furtado said. “Cheese, meat … those things have been in very short supply. Either they’re not available at all, or the companies that warehouse these things and transport these things don’t have availability to deliver the things.”

He said Attleboro has been forced to make substitutions for school lunches and tailor menus based on what food is available. They’ve even turned to vendors for missing items, but that’s a pricier option, according to Furtado.

“We have to now purchase food through normal wholesale channels that serve restaurants and things like that, so our food costs have increased,” he added.

In Westport, the school district’s business manager Michelle Rapoza said they’re facing the same issue and have had no choice but to turn to vendors.

“We’re finding that something that we may have paid $25.95 a case for is now up to $77 a case. It’s out of our control,” Rapoza said.

While they have fewer mouths to feed than Attleboro — Westport has around 1,400 students district-wide — Rapoza said the impact is just as great.

“Your students, sometimes they’re coming in thinking they’re getting a certain meal, and that’s not what they’re getting,” she said. “It’s gotten worse over the last two weeks. So, a lot of our vendors that we deal with, that we purchase all of our supplies from — food and paper supplies — they’re showing a large backup.”

She said sometimes food deliveries are days late and delivered after business hours.

“I’m getting emails at 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock in the morning saying, ‘We just loaded our trucks, we should be there tomorrow. We apologize … We’re four days late.'”

Rapoza said they’re not only lacking when it comes to food products, but other supplies as well. She said they’ve resorted to getting lunch trays from an office supply company.

Since it’s only October, she fears what this means for the rest of the school year.

“We worry. We worry about what’s to come, how this is bad now, but worse is gonna be worse,” Rapoza added.

Both districts said they haven’t received an update from distributors on when the situation may improve. However, Attleboro’s situation has gotten slightly better compared to the first few weeks of the school year.

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