Clinton, TN

Anderson County Schools challenged with disruptions in food supply chain as new school year approaches

Muna Hassan

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Assorted foods are seen in serving containers.Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

A disruption in the food supply chain is challenging Anderson County Schools as the district tries to figure out how it will deliver meals to students as the new school year approaches.

Increased demand post-pandemic has not only put a strain on food production, it is also affecting available labor resources needed to process and deliver food items to local communities.

As school gets closer to being in session, this is adding to the task of ensuring all children in the school district continue to have access to free meals.

“We feel like it will be a definite challenge,” said Margaret Burrell, nutrition director for Anderson County Schools. “Our distributor is struggling mightily with drivers.”

One major challenge of note: food supply chain vendors for the district are now requesting food orders be placed two weeks in advance instead of on a weekly basis.

Because there is often not enough storage room in schools to accommodate such orders, the district is working on possible solutions.

Another challenge: food shortages are expected to last until the spring of 2022, making it difficult to develop and stick to a menu that is typically created before the school year begins.

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Food service staff puts food into a to-go container.Photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Pexels

Food vendors and supply chain experts are forewarning schools that food substitutions may occur depending on what and how much of any specific ingredient is available at any given time in the supply chain.

“Not everyone is going to get exactly what they ordered, but they’re going to get some share of allocation that might be based on equity, it might be based on history with that vendor or some other measure of need,” said Thomas Goldsby, a supply chain expert at the University of Tennessee.

While it will be a challenge for nutrition staff in the district, Burrell is confident students will not be negatively impacted.

“Our staff will do whatever it takes to get a meal out there,” said Burrell.

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Muna has been a journalist and fitness professional for more than 10 years. With degrees in exercise science and dietetics, Muna focuses on informing people about how to lead a healthier lifestyle. Muna is the owner of Body and Mind by Muna, an online gym for at-home workouts, as well as MuslimahFit, a fitness app for women.

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