Note from Director of School Nutrition

Note from Director of School Nutrition
Posted on 09/27/2021
The Watertown School Nutrition Department is thrilled that the USDA has allowed all schools nationwide to serve FREE meals to all students through USDA’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO). This option maintains the nutrition standards of the standard school meal programs to the best of our ability – including a strong emphasis on providing fruits and vegetables, fluid milk, whole grains, and sensible calorie levels

However, our program, as well as most other school nutrition programs across the nation, faces many obstacles this school year including staffing shortages, nationwide food distribution issues with procuring food and paper products, navigating serving meals in alternate dining areas as well as utilizing swing spaces and central kitchens during our school construction projects. All of these issues have been exacerbated by an increased need for school meals in the district, serving an average of 2040 meals per day (compared to 1120 meals per day in September 2019).

Factors impacting our school meals here in Watertown include:

Staff Shortages: We currently have two open full-time positions in our department and are in need of substitute food service workers. Our amazing team goes above and beyond every day to provide the best service possible despite all of the challenges we have faced this year.

Supply Chain Issues: Watertown School Nutrition purchases with a collaborative purchasing group with about 90 districts and below are some of the areas of concern:

Milk distributor: Our distributor currently does not have enough drivers so they need to limit milk deliveries
Produce distributor: The contract was awarded to Russo’s and since they have decided to close their doors they are unable to fulfill the contract for all 90 districts involved in the contract. We are actively working on procuring another produce distributor.
Grocery Distributor: The Distributor who was awarded our 90 district grocery bid informed they would not be able to fulfill the bid at all. We were able to secure another grocery distributor but have already received multiple letters about product shortages and driver shortages resulting in us not receiving the items we need for our menus and sometimes delaying deliveries days after they were scheduled to arrive. This is a constant struggle and will result in menu changes. We will do our best to communicate menu changes with families.
Paper Distributor: Our distributor sent us a long list of all of the products that will not be available for, at minimum, months. This includes the lunch trays, to-go containers, sporks, and other items we use daily.

Alternative Dining Areas and Multiple Lunches: Providing grab & go style meals for students to consume in socially distanced outdoor spaces requires specific products and packaging which has resulted in limited options and has become increasingly more difficult to execute due to the supply chain issues stated above

Please Note: Due to these issues our menus are subject to change without notice. We will do the best that we can to inform families of menu changes whenever possible. The USDA has granted a program waiver for missing food components due to supply chain disruptions.

Your patience and understanding are greatly appreciated as we continue to navigate these challenging times and work hard to provide the best meals possible to our students.

Sincerely,

Brandon Rabbitt, RD, SNS
Director of School Nutrition
brandon.rabbitt@watertown.k12.ma.us