We Want to Know: Where Have All the School Nutrition Workers Gone?

Staffing shortages are plaguing school food service teams. In this post, we share some tips for optimizing your program with what you have.

Empty school cafeteria kitchen

As a country, we are still struggling to figure out what a world looks like after a pandemic. And it’s because of the pandemic that many lost their jobs or were too afraid of getting sick to work. This has created massive staffing shortages in food service and other industries.

More and more, people are venturing outside again and businesses are reopening, but something is missing. So, we must to ask the question: where have all the workers gone? 

Widespread staffing shortages have led many businesses to reduce their hours because they lack the staff to operate around the clock. In some cases, this is forcing businesses to increase wagesToday News reports that a Texas restaurant has even resorted to robots to fill their needs. 

Labor shortages are a reality for many of our school districts, especially in the food service department. In the midst of competitors increasing pay for employees or adding robots, what can you do to compete? 

If you’re in need of some recruitment ideas or ways to optimize your processes, we’ve got your covered. Here are some efficiency ideas, so your food service once again runs like a well-oiled machine. 

“Always Be Recruiting” – Glengarry Glen Ross

Take every opportunity to let your community know you’re hiring. School districts distribute a lot of information to their community already. Make sure that “Now Hiring!” is listed on everything you send. 

Do not limit your communication to just your department. Partner with other departments to get your message out there. 

Here are some key areas where you should include recruitment messaging:

Think Outside of the Box for Staffing Shortages

Just because school districts are competing with local businesses does not mean they have to compete in the same space. Instead, focus your efforts on parents of younger students.

Since these children are new to school, their parents might be looking to get back into the workforce. What better way than to take a shift up at the school while their students are already at that school? 

If your target is reliable employees, market your job opportunities in retirement communities. Many retirees would jump at the chance to work a handful of hours a week.  

Simplify Your Processes 

Think through the manual and time-consuming daily tasks you and your team handle each day. Then, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What time is spent placing orders?
  • How much time do your teams spend generating reports each day?
  • Are you often stuck repeatedly entering menu changes into multiple software platforms? 

Consider investing in software that provides automation in processes and reporting. Find a solution that allows you to set up your reports and have them automatically delivered when you need them. In addition, look for a solution that’s fully integrated, so each menu change and update automatically duplicates across your entire platform. 

Streamline Onboarding 

With staffing shortages limiting your time, the last thing you need is to be stuck teaching new staff how to use your software. New team members can be quickly onboarded with self-paced, video-based training that requires minimal one-on-one training.

If your current software is hard to use and doesn’t offer tools to help onboard new staff, it might be time to make the switch to something that dramatically reduces the amount of time you spend on training. 

Bonus Idea: Doubling POS Lines 

Consider doubling up your POS lines. Many systems allow you to add a second scanner or pin pad to one computer. It takes a little bit of time to get used to, but it allows one staff member to handle two lines instead of one at a time.  

Solving for Staffing Shortages

If there was a positive outcome of the pandemic, it may be that we’re coming up with creative ways to solve problems. School districts are finding efficiencies within their nutrition program to increase participation or unconventionally marketing staff openings to combat the shortages they‘re experiencing this year.

We’d like to hear from you — how are you creatively solving for staff shortages this year?