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A National Supply Chain Problem Is Biting Into Meals At Dallas Schools

Dallas school cafeteria attended is serving several students a meal during lunchtime.
LM Otero
Students lined up in the cafeteria at Dallas' Lincoln High School in March 2020. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Dallas ISD will serve students finger foods for breakfast and lunch due to a lack of plasticware.

Due to a shortage of plasticware across the county, Dallas ISD students are being served finger foods — and some bagged lunches — two days a week.

Plastic forks, spoons and knives are in short supply, Dallas ISD officials say. That’s led them to start serving some meals that can be eaten without flatware.

Officials say the early signs of the plasticware problem showed up in late May and early June.

“We started to see where orders would be shorted a little bit. Maybe 10 cases less, maybe 25 cases less,” Michael Rosenberger, executive director for Food and Child Nutrition Services for the Dallas Independent School District, said. “They were having either supply chain issues and or labor issues which were creating shortages and backorders and backlogs.”

Rosenberger cited several reasons for the interruption in the production chain. They include a shortage of workers to meet demand and disruptions in distribution brought on by the pandemic and extreme weather.

“We have seen some really wild weather with the drought that hit California and the Western states which caused significant loss of crops," Rosenberger said. "So, when all these factors come together, it's created kind of a perfect storm to interrupt the normal supply chain.”

Much like with a computer chip shortage that has affected the auto industry, early to mid-2022 is the expected date for the food distribution chain to settle.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a waiver to allow districts to adjust menus. The waiver, created by the Food and Nutrition Service, is available to any state that has reported supply chain issues.

Dallas ISD is switching to bagged lunches two days a week and finger foods such as chicken tenders and fries for breakfast and lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Also, the school district is looking to buy more paper goods for serving meals to students.

Parents can view daily menus and nutritional information on the district’s website.

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ot a tip? Ana Perez at You can follow Ana on Twitter @anabpez9.

Ana Perez is a KERA News producer and the intern coordinator for the station.