Supply chain issues affect school districts in Eastern North Carolina

School Watch

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — School districts are the latest victims of supply chain issues.

Nutrition directors said it’s getting harder to find some products used to serve students lunch. More students are back in the classroom, which means more people are eating in the cafeteria.

“At the end of last school year, we only served less than 60 percent of our students,” said Craven County Schools Nutrition Director Lauren Weyand. “This year already we are over 70 percent.”

New Bern High School students are beginning to notice a difference in the cafeteria’s menu.

“Breakfast mostly because you would hear kids asking where is the sausage biscuit this week,” said Weyand.

That’s thanks to supply chain issues. Craven County isn’t the only district having problems. Pitt County Schools is facing the same issues.

“Forks and spoons, I saw our list today from our distributor for tomorrow’s delivery,” said Pitt County Schools Nutrition Director Gretchen Wilson. “They cannot bring us those items. Thankfully, we have some in stock we purchased elsewhere, but it’s not what we usually get and it’s three times the cost of what we usually pay.”

It’s a cost districts didn’t budget for.

“Usually, our labor costs us a whole lot more than our food and supplies and now they’re even,” said Wilson.

The shortages and prices increases are causing school leaders to get creative.

“Instead of having the silverware open, out for them to grab and go at the cash register, the cashier gives them silverware depending on what menu item they have chosen,” said Weyand. “We went ahead and bought a pizza chain to ensure that we had pizza especially for our high schools.”

When that’s not enough, nutrition directors head straight to the source.

“We go out directly to the manufacturers and source items we know the kids need,” said Weyand. “We have gone shopping at Sam’s Club. We have gone shopping at local grocery stores and local warehouses to find items.”

Weyand and Wilson said their goal is still the same: to provide healthy lunches for students. They’re expecting these shortages to last for, at least the rest of this school year.

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