“What we are finding right now is we are not able to get a lot of the food that we normally would,” said the district’s Director of Child Nutrition, Noah Atlas. “It’s a combination of everything. It’s labor. We’re hearing from our manufacturers that it’s packaging, that its transportation. So it’s really kind of everything coming together that leads us to not have food or have to choose alternate food.”
That means last minute menu substitutions can happen, and Atlas says they try to communicate that to parents as quickly as possible.
“Instead of having a month-long menu we’ve been putting out menus by the week, but we’re still seeing that some days we are just not getting the food that we thought we were going to get. What we’ve done in the shortage is, instead of one chicken item we might have a different chicken item. Instead of one bread item we might have a different bread item,” said Atlas.
Nobody goes hungry, but sometimes the substitution isn’t the most popular.
“We weren’t able to get Chinese food for the past month, so we didn’t have orange chicken and we had to do kind of a chicken in a biscuit meal. Not our guests’ favorite but we were able to serve something that day that was still chicken.”
The shortages come at a time when more school lunches are being served. The Anoka-Hennepin district is serving 1500 more lunches everyday because the federal government has made them free this school year.
“Yeah a perfect storm kind of situation,” said Atlas. “We already needed one hundred cases of a product or a food and now we need 40 more because we’re feeding that many more students. We’re seeing it on both ends. We’re seeing it on the manufacturers’ side and on the student side because our guests want to eat with us more.”
Atlas says the goal is still to provide students with choices, even though they may be different from the original plan.
Anoka-Hennepin says it posts menu changes as quickly as possible. If parents have questions about allergens in the replacement products, they are asked to call the Child Nutrition Department at 763-506-1240.