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Ketchup arrives just in time for hot dog day; JCPS cafeterias struggle with COVID-disrupted supply chain

Updated: Sep. 2, 2021 at 4:23 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Jefferson County Public Schools cafeterias are having to improvise to overcome shortages because of COVID-19.

Delayed shipments of food and supplies are forcing waves of menu substitutions.

“Every day the challenges are just totally different,” said Trina Gilbert, Nutrition Services Coordinator at Shacklett Elementary School. “Some days it’s not even a food that’s an issue; it’s materials.”

It is a sign of how COVID has hit the labor supply. In addition to a shortage of truck drivers, some suppliers don’t have the people to process and package the food quickly enough.

In the first four weeks of school, Shacklett Elementary has had to substitute entrees and swap out choices for fruits and vegetables.

A shipment of needed lunch trays did not arrive until Tuesday. A shipment of ketchup arrived on Wednesday.

“So when the truck pulled up yesterday with lunch trays, I did my famous hallelujah because we were so excited we had lunch trays,” Gilbert said. “Then yesterday, we got ketchup for the first time in two weeks.”

Until the disruptions are solved, it’s a matter of schools making do with what they have.

“A lot of it has to do with inventory,” Julia Bauscher, JCPS School and Community Nutrition Services Director said, “with any particular items that we have on hand at the time they change their menu and whether or not the truck showed up at our back door.”

Bauscher said lunch menus are normally planned two weeks in advance. But in schools across JCPS, more often than not those plans are going out the window.

Bauscher said JCPS has plenty of the regular staples stockpiled to keep students fed the required hot meals. There just won’t be as many choices.

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