School districts and local businesses alike are struggling to maintain standard levels of service due to nationwide supply shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District have been hit hard by the supply chain issues. The districts have reported they are facing shortages of food as well as non-food items.
“We’re serving more meals than ever with less staff and less food,” WCS Food Services Director James Remete said. “I want to thank our parent volunteers, because without them, what we’re doing wouldn’t even be possible.”
Of the 42,000 students in WCS, roughly 30,000 rely on school-provided meals for lunch. Food services employees such as cafeteria workers and volunteers are forced to adjust daily menus based on what food is currently available.
"We're outsourcing anywhere we can," Remete said. "We're trying to purchase anywhere and everywhere. We're exhausting our resources with anyone who is willing to do business with us. We used to get one delivery that would cover the whole week. Now, we're getting five deliveries. Schools will have different foods delivered at different times."
The department is ordering food from suppliers 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 articles are also running low.
"We're at the point right now that we're rationing trays," Remete said. "If they don't absolutely need a tray or a spoon, then we won't give them one. We're just trying to ration our products.”
The district’s facilities, maintenance and construction departments are also experiencing supply issues.
"It's not just food services — it's everywhere," Remete said. "It’s across the country. There is an issue, and we just want to ask parents to bear with us."
In FSSD, Child Nutrition Supervisor Robbin Cross said most of the supply issues have come from non-food items as well. She said there have been minimal changes to their menus, and they've been able to substitute items when there's been a shortage.
The district is receiving food and supplies this year from Sysco, IWC, Costco, Sam’s Club, Gordon Food Services and Kroger.
The problems facing the county's schools are representative of issues other corporations and business are undergoing throughout Williamson County and the nation.
“Even on our current menu there are certain cheeses that have been hard to get,” Frothy Monkey Franklin Front of House Manager Andrew Miles said. “Guest checkbooks for servers have been hard [to get]. Any equipment issues have been hard to source, like we had a cooler that we had to just not use for quite a while. We ordered something immediately, but it took like a month and a half to get here for the world supply chain.”
Like the county's schools, Frothy Monkey changed its menu to compensate for the difficulties.
“We’ve had a very large menu for a long time,” Miles said. “We were able to pair it down to a little bit smaller of a menu to help ... and our servers have less to talk [about] too, but it’s a little less overwhelming and more straightforward so we can serve people even faster with a smaller staff.”
Students and customers alike are having to adapt to COVID-19-caused changes.
"We're still trying to put good food out there," Remete said. "The food is still looking good and colorful. Our staff is working hard to make sure that students still have options."