The Lee County School District has received an emergency purchase waiver extension through July 2023, which will allow it to continue with the current business model used to feed students in the district.
Food and Nutrition Services Manager Kandace Messenger said that from January to July 2022, the district worked closely with vendors and put in place a work plan that resulted in the district providing 7 .8 million meals in the second half and more than 200,000 meals last summer.
An emergency food supply waiver was put in place in October 2021 due to supply issues resulting from the COVID pandemic. Messenger said manufacturers were running out of raw material to meet demand from private and public industries, compounded by the fact that a former primary grocer supplier stopped serving the K-12 business, which changed the business model to bring groceries into the school.
“Food and Nutrition has requested an increase of $9 million to cover the anticipated cost of stocking and transporting grocers to schools,” she says. “In December 2021, with the help of Supply Services, we were able to secure a contract with Florida Freezer to store food and OC Trucking to deliver groceries to the kitchen to feed our students.”
The Food and Nutrition Service ended up spending $4.3 million, which was less than the planned $9 million. It was broken down by the increase of $2.8 million in the cost of food and $1.5 million in the cost of storage and distribution.
Expenditures from January to June 2022, which included lower expenditures with Sysco at $7.3 million, $515,512 for Florida Freezer, $950,097 for OC Trucking and $2.8 million for direct deliveries. The district expects small increases from Florida Freezer and OC Trucking.
At this time, Sysco has not given the district a timeline to begin the school-to-school delivery model.
She said Direct Deliverys deliver items such as crackers, cereals and breakfast items, which are the cereal components needed to prepare the student meal.
“Drop-shipments continue to occur when we are notified that our main grocer is unable to obtain items for us, causing us to contact manufacturers to see what they have. Most of the time, deliveries from manufacturers can take place within a few weeks. The lead grocer needs 60 days to get the product to their facility, and then it takes another two weeks to get the item to the schools for our students,” Messenger said.
Manufacturers have also streamlined their product line, offering fewer choices to offset rising food costs.
“To supplement the cost of food, Food and Nutrition Services used Department of Defense products and took advantage of USDA commodity processing and some brown box items,” she says.
The total USDA rights allocated for this year are just over $4.1 million.
The process begins with placing a large grocery order for Sysco to deliver. Messenger said at this time that they are looking at the first week of December for these races to be in schools.
“Then he walks into Florida Frieza. They store it for us. We place individual orders with them, we send them a collection ticket. They select and prep it with OC Trucking and tag it for each school,” she says. “They put in routes that we approved. They pick it up in the morning and deliver it to the schools.
As for putting something new on the menu, Messenger said they had to put a forecast, which would result in an arrival 60 days later. This, she says, is why the repetition occurs on school menus.