North Country schools take hit following food industry shortages


WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — As food shortages continue to impact products such as chicken, local school districts are also taking a hit.

The Watertown City School Food Service Department issued a memo to the community on Tuesday to address how these shortages may impact lunch menus this school year. According to the Department, unprecedented issues in the food supply chain may lead to immediate changes in posted menus.

In a previous interview with ABC50 that discussed school reopening, District Superintendent Patricia LaBarr commented on these shortages. She reiterated the the menus are always “subject to change.”

“As we plan [for the school year], there are a lot of layers to what we do, LaBarr said. “We have breakfast and lunch that we serve every day, but we also know right now that we’re having some significant issues, getting food that we know our kids love.”

She said that supply chain shortages are impacting “beloved” menu items such as chicken tenders, popcorn chicken or even personal pizza. However, said this is not an issue exclusive to the Watertown City School District. These national shortages were stem back to workplace closures earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we think back to the past year and a half, when some of the major manufacturers of the chicken were closing down their plants because so many of their staff members have COVID, we’re seeing the impacts of some of the things that we may not have noticed right when those plants were closing down,” LaBarr added.

The District serves two meals a day, both breakfast and lunch. Through state and federal funding, all students in the District receive these meals for free.

The full memo issued by the Food Service Department read:

As school foodservice programs are making preparations to return to normal service and menus, we are facing unprecedented issues with the supply chain that will cause us to alter our posted menus with little to no notice. We are working closely with our distributors and manufacturers to secure both the food and supply items needed to support our program.

While it is our intention to serve the posted menu each day in each building, supply issues will not make this possible throughout the school year until the supply chain issues are rectified. We will always attempt to substitute the scheduled menu item with another that is similar as possible to the extend we are able to do so.

Food shortages like chicken products have been ongoing since early 2021. However, school districts like the Watertown City School District plan to make changes if necessary and continue to release updates as information is released.

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