School districts and local businesses are struggling to maintain standard service levels due to nationwide supply shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District have been hit hard by supply chain issues. Districts have reported that they are facing shortages of food and non-food items.
“We’re serving more meals than ever with less staff and less food,” WCS Food Services Director James Remete said. “I would like to thank our parent volunteers, because without them, what we do would not even be possible.
Of WCS’s 42,000 students, approximately 30,000 depend on meals provided by the school for lunch. Food service employees such as cafeteria workers and volunteers are forced to adjust daily menus based on the food currently available.
“We outsource wherever we can,” Remete said. “We try to buy anywhere and everywhere. We are exhausting our resources with anyone willing to do business with us. We used to get one delivery that covered the whole week. Now we get five deliveries. schools will have different foods delivered at different times.”
The department orders food from vendors such as IWC Food Service, Sysco and more. Employees are even running to grocery stores such as Publix, Kroger and Sam’s Club for essential items. Plastic cutlery, paper napkins and other inedible items are also out of stock.
“We’re at the point right now where we’re rationing sets,” Remete said. “If they don’t absolutely need a tray or a spoon, we won’t give it to them. We just try to ration our produce.”
The district’s facilities, maintenance and construction departments are also experiencing supply problems.
“It’s not just foodservice — it’s everywhere,” Remete said. “It’s all over the country. There’s a problem, and we just want to ask the parents to support us.”
At FSSD, child nutrition supervisor Robbin Cross said most of the supply problems also stem from non-food items. She said there have been minimal changes to their menus and they have been able to substitute items if there is a shortage.
The district is receiving food and supplies this year from Sysco, IWC, Costco, Sam’s Club, Gordon Food Services and Kroger.
The issues facing schools in the county are representative of issues faced by other corporations and businesses throughout Williamson County and across the country.
“Even on our current menu, some cheeses have been hard to come by,” said Andrew Miles, front desk manager of Frothy Monkey Franklin. “Guest checkbooks for servers have been difficult [to get]. Any equipment issues were hard to find, as we had a cooler that we just weren’t going to use for quite a while. We ordered something immediately, but it took about a month and a half to get here for the global supply chain.
Like county schools, Frothy Monkey has changed its menu to compensate for the difficulties.
“We’ve had a really big menu for a long time,” Miles said. “We were able to pair it with a slightly smaller menu to help…and our servers have less to talk about [about] too, but it’s a little less overwhelming and simpler, so we can serve people even faster with a smaller staff.
Students and customers must adapt to the changes caused by COVID-19.
“We always try to provide good food,” Remete said. “The food always looks good and colorful. Our staff are working hard to make sure students still have options.”