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Food for Thought: How Anderson County Food Services is Handling Supply Chain Shortages
Over the course of the pandemic, one hardship that has affected all of us is the national supply chain shortage in household and food items-- toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, meat, crackers, and the like. Dealing with those shortages is an issue not only limited to individuals but one that impacts organizations like schools as well. In fact, at the January 10th Board Meeting,  Anderson County Schools, at the advice of auditor Denise Keene, declared a state of emergency due to that supply shortage in relation to our food services. This temporary state of emergency declaration allowed Anderson County Schools to access USDA emergency procurement for supplies that might not otherwise have been accessible, providing fiscal flexibility. Working through shortages and other difficulties, Anderson County Food Services has put in extra behind-the-scenes work and come together as a unit to ensure that the impact on our students is minimal to none.

Director of District-wide Programs and Operations, Ronnie Fields, noted that food orders are placed weekly to prepare meals for our students in the weeks that follow. He receives an email from Gordon Food Service, the supplier for Anderson County Schools as well as many other Kentucky schools, to alert him concerning items that are or will be in short supply. “Last November there were so many items out of stock that food service directors from schools across the state had to create a substitution plan with GFS,” Fields noted. “Thankfully,” he stated, “things are starting to improve a bit even though we are still having to be creative with our resolutions.”

Most recently, shortages have affected paper and foam trays, plastic flatware, many grab-and-go breakfast items such as pop tarts, as well as lunch food items like chicken products and canned fruits and vegetables. In order to eliminate any impact on our students, our food service workers in Anderson County have had to use some old-fashioned hard work and innovation. Those solutions have included changing weekly menus to substitute items: chicken patties rather than chicken nuggets, for example. In response to the shortage of paper and foam trays, some Anderson County schools have temporarily made use of washable, hard plastic trays.

The greatest support in ensuring children, families, and staff were not impacted has been in the ability of Anderson County Schools to come together as a community. Superintendent Sheila Mitchell stated, “We were able to work with our local vendors like Save-A-Lot, Walmart, and Kroger to ensure we had items that were in short supply. We appreciate the local vendors in helping us during this time of need.” Additionally, Anderson County food service workers and cafeteria managers put in extra hours, even coming in on Black Friday and the day before New Year’s Eve to receive orders necessary to build back up the food and supplies stores. Because of that hard work, Anderson County schools were able to, in Superintendent Mitchell’s words, “continue to provide high-quality meals to the children in our district by our local vendors and food service team pulling together and continuing to focus on what’s best for our students.”

Although national supply chain shortages have affected us all, putting students first has allowed Anderson County Schools to continue to feed both our students’ minds and their bellies.

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The Anderson County School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs or activities and provides equal access to designated youth groups. Inquiries may be directed to the Anderson County Title IX Coordinator, Travis Harley. He may be contacted at the district office, located at 1160 Bypass N. Lawrenceburg, KY 40342; by phone at 502-839-3406 or by email at [email protected]
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