K-12 Nutrition Supply Chain Woes: How to Plan for the Unexpected

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Robert Burns

Remember the days of carefully crafted cycle menus that flawlessly deliver compliant meals like clockwork? We remember them fondly.

Right now, supply chain shortages are plaguing school districts. And it’s these shortages that creates perpetual pivoting for their nutrition programs. The challenge: finding food that is readily available AND maintains compliance.

Whether they like it or not, districts are being forced to take a new approach. But there has to be a way to plan for the unexpected, right? We think so. In this post, we’ll look at ways to plan around the current supply chain shortages or any unexpected issues that should arise.

The blog post focuses on the following:

  • Keeping accurate inventory to avoid time-consuming rummaging
  • Building menu plans that are resilient to change
  • Finding ways to save time through efficient processes
  • Being kind to yourself because, well, things are extra hard right now

Let’s take a look at how accurate record keeping makes a huge difference when issues arise in your school nutrition program, like supply chain shortages.

Keeping Accurate Records

When issues arise and your program has to pivot, the best thing you can do is have solutions at the ready.

When it is time to make a sudden menu change, most districts don’t have accurate inventory immediately on hand. The food service team is stuck running reports, making phone calls, and rummaging through their freezers. Actionable inventory data empowers you to make speedy decisions instead of discovering your options.

The problem with accurate inventory is that it’s time consuming to capture. With every meal served and order received, numbers are constantly changing throughout the day.

Your production records are a part of our daily to-do list and it contains the details of exactly how much you prepared and served. A software solution that automatically tracks your inventory based on your production records is incredibly handy.

Anticipate Supply Chain Shortages

We’re going to say something a little harsh: plan to fail. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if you’re a perfectionist. However, supply chain shortages are now a part of the unfortunate new normal. Instead of getting frustrated by what you can’t control, build menu plans that are resilient to change.

Compartmentalize Your Menus for Proactive Planning

If you have the expectation that your original cycle menu plan will fail, you are free to think more creatively about your plans. Here are some things to consider when building a resilient menu plan for your program:

What is your backup plan?

Think of each component as plug and play and test future options in your menu planning software. If any of these planned components fail, what will replace it? Think ahead to your second and third choices.

Avoid items that require extra training or are one-and-done.

Look for items your staff won’t need to be retrained on, and also items that have similar components and nutritional profiles. Also, order items that can be used in multiple ways on your menu. Try to avoid ordering items that can only be used in one position in your cycle menus.

Save Time Where You Can

Unexpected events are always time consuming. And yet, time is a scarce commodity (especially for school nutrition professionals).

For many, your daily processes are completely manual: manual inventory counting; manual menu changes across multiple platforms, systems and websites; counting inventory by hand and estimating the quantities ordered; running the same reports over and over again. These processes eat up a ton of valuable time.

Instead of relying on manual processes, it’s more important than ever to find a software platform that helps make the most of your time. These systems automate many manual processes. LINQ’s TITAN platform allows you to schedule reports and choose delivery times: daily, weekly or monthly at preset times.

The fully integrated TITAN platform from LINQ updates dynamically. If a menu update occurs, that change automatically updates every production record, online menu and inventory record in real time.

Lastly, Give Yourself a Break!

K-12 food service teams are spread so thin; supply chain shortages are interrupting the best intentions of these everyday heroes on a daily basis. Give yourself some room and some lots of grace. Take a breath. Allow yourself to be frustrated and tired.

Your mission is of the highest importance and your hard work is beyond valuable. You are not alone and you will get through this.

So, Now What?

Your nutrition solution should offer you an abundance of opportunities, including the ability to integrate your production records directly into inventory tracking to empower your decision making in real time.

The right solution will also be able to provide preplanned resolutions to problems that will save precious time and anxiety in the moment, and allow you to get more of our valuable time back to focus on what matters most: feeding our students.


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