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How supply chain issues are impacting school lunches around the Tampa Bay area

The disruption means school lunch menus have been seeing changes and substitutions.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — You might have noticed rising prices and fewer items in stock for both online and in-store retailers as a result of a supply chain disruption.

But what about the bulk foods school districts need to feed students during the school day? They're also feeling the effects.

10 Tampa Bay spoke to Victor Claar, an economist at Florida Gulf Coast University, who says the reason for the shortage is kind of a perfect storm.

"When you think about the supply chain, realize it is just that, a chain. There’s one link, that connects to another link, that connects to another," Claar said. "Now we have multiple issues affecting multiple links in that chain. It drives up costs in one of those links and those costs are passed along where there are higher costs."

Here's how supply chain issues are impacting Florida school districts:

Sarasota County

The school district says it has been experiencing "some issues" with its supply chain. 

"These interruptions have caused us to alter posted school menus, sometimes with little or no notice. Various contributing factors include labor and material shortages across production, transportation, manufacturing, and even distribution channels," a spokesperson wrote in a statement.

Sarasota County Public Schools says it will continue to work closely with distributors and manufacturers to secure items needed to support the Food & Nutrition Services department.

Pinellas County

So far, the school district says it is not seeing "total shortages" but is experiencing substitutions due to the discontinuation of certain foods by manufacturers.

Examples of issues impacting menus are swapping orange juice for apple juice and having to replace eco-friendly plates with Styrofoam, according to Pinellas County Schools.

"We expect the situation to remain for the school year. We will adjust our menu as needed to ensure we continue to provide high-quality meals to our students," a spokesperson wrote.

Hillsborough County

The Student Nutrition Services department is experiencing supply chain issues, according to the school district.

"We receive notifications on almost a daily basis of items that we’ve ordered but didn’t come into our distributor. We’ve experienced shortages in chicken products, pizza, fruits and most recently grains," a spokesperson wrote in a statement.

According to Hillsborough County Schools, the district chef has been changing the menu based on the foods the schools are receiving so that they can still meet nutritional requirements.

The school district also said it currently has a staffing shortage of 150 nutrition workers.

Hernando County

The district said it's experiencing "frequent menu changes" and dealing with some food and serving items being "unavailable."

"We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to find creative solutions to supply chain issues," Hernando County Schools Food & Nutrition Services wrote in a statement published by Central High School. "We look forward to continuing to serve all of our students no cost breakfast and lunch each day."

This is a developing story. As more school districts respond, this story will be updated.