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What's for lunch? Supply chain issues have Colorado schools substituting foods and changing menus

Staff shortages also affecting cafeterias
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Posted at 8:02 AM, Sep 03, 2021

DENVER -- Supply chain issues that are affecting the the entire world are now trickling down into school cafeterias. Both Denver Public Schools and JeffCo Public Schools say schools don’t always have the foods they’ve ordered, and sometimes are making last minute changes to the menus.

Beth Wallace, executive director of food and nutrition services for JeffCo Public Schools, said more kids are participating in lunch this year because the federal government is providing meals for free, but supply can’t keep up with demand.

“Sometimes there’s something on the menu and (the kids) get to school and they’re a little disappointed because it’s not what they thought they were going to get,” Wallace said.

She said schools are doing the best they can with the products they have on hand and are trying to substitute similar foods when possible.

Wallace, who was just named President of the School Nutrition Association, said another problem affecting schools nationwide is a severe staffing shortage.

“I’ve been in this business 25 years and I have never seen it this severe,” she said.

JeffCo has been assigning administrative staff to cover cafeterias some days and asking parents to help out.

Denver Public Schools is also short-staffed. The district is hosting job fairs every Thursday. Both DPS and JeffCo have raised starting pay for food and nutrition staff to $15.80 and $15 per hour, respectively.

Wallace said while there are challenges, it’s good that kids are getting free meals, and all the meals are meeting USDA nutrition requirements.

“Our most important goal of the day is making sure kids get our healthy meal every single day,” Wallace said.