Indiana schools look for alternatives with lunchroom staples limited by pandemic

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GREENWOOD — In a letter to families this week, Noblesville Schools let them know supply chain issues are causing problems in the lunchroom, which means lunches will have much less variety than normal.

It’s not just a Noblesville Schools problem, other districts across central Indiana are also feeling the pinch. Craig Niehaus, the Assistant Director of Food Service at Clark Pleasant Schools said lunchroom staples like chicken patties and pizza are much harder to get nowadays than they used to be.

”Sometimes we can’t get those because everyone is trying to get those,” Niehaus said.

At Clark Pleasant, they’ve had to find alternatives for usual go to items

”Vendors do a really good job of giving us lists and suggestions of what we can use in place of our normal products,” Niehaus said.

Noblesville Schools asked for parents to help by having students eat breakfast at home and bring a sack lunch more often if they can. We reached out to Noblesville Schools for an interview and a spokesperson declined.

Sara Gasiorowski, the Director of Child Nutrition at MSD Wayne Township, said they’re seeing similar problems with more limited options for school meals.

”So instead of a pasta bar you might just be doing pasta with a meat sauce,” Gasiorowski said.

She said they have had to limit menu options because of a combination of staffing shortages and supply chain issues.

”Every week we are having to make substitutions,” Gasiorowski said.

Noblesville Schools told parents its issue is partly because of suppliers prioritizing groceries and restaurants ahead of schools. Gasiorowski said one of their manufacturers is choosing to pull out of the school business all together next year.

”They are focusing more on the retail market right now,” she said.

Gasiorowski said this is a business decision for these manufacturers since schools usually mean a smaller profit margin.

”They have also struggled through the pandemic so they’re having to look at their business models as well,” she said.

Limited menus are something parents should get used to, Gasiorowski said these problems will probably continue at least through the end of this school year.

”We feel that we are going to be dealing with supply chain issues probably for the next year,” she said.

Clark-Pleasant School leaders are hopeful the food supply issues have reached its peak and they won’t have to keep searching for replacements to their replacements.  

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