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School Year 2021-2022 Food Supply Chain Disruptions

The U.S. Department Agriculture (USDA) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Nutrition Department acknowledge a nationwide disruption in the food supply chain that is affecting all aspects of foodservice, including those that participate in the Child Nutrition Programs.

The USDA is committed to working together with state agencies, School Food Authorities (SFAs), the food industry, and other stakeholders to communicate school food supply chain challenges and to identify solutions. For School Year 2021-2022, the USDA has provided school meal program flexibilities, waivers, and training resources to help states and SFAs navigate supply chain issues and provide nutritious school meals that children need to learn, grow, and be healthy.

In an effort to better understand the supply chain issues here in Illinois please complete the linked survey. The information you provide will be used to help out your fellow schools out there that are struggling, and if you are struggling it lets us know that you need help and the type of help that you need!

 Supply Chain Assistance Funds

On Dec. 17, 2021 USDA Memo, July 7, 2022 USDA Memo, Sept. 20, 2022 USDA Memo, and August 7, 2023 USDA MemoPDF Document, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Supply Chain Assistance (SCA) Funds. State agencies will distribute SCA funds to eligible school food authorities to be used exclusively to purchase unprocessed or minimally processed domestic food products to help school food authorities (SFAs) deal with challenges, such as unanticipated cancellation​ of food and supply contracts, reduced availability of certain foods, unexpected substitution of certain products, unpredictable increases in food and supply prices, and other obstacles related to pricing and/or availability that have been reported to or identified by state agencies administering the Child Nutrition Programs. With more than $134 million allocated to Illinois eligible schools for this purpose, $88 million have been disbursed through Sept. 30, 2023. The remaining SCA funding ($46 million) will be disbursed from January 2024 through Sept. 30, 2024.

 Emergency Procurement Guidance

7 CFR 200.320(c) Noncompetitive Procurement

If necessary, school food service staff can conduct emergency purchases to continue uninterrupted food service using noncompetitive procurement methods. This type of procurement or purchase is short-term in duration, which means these contracts cannot be renewed for the following school year. Emergency noncompetitive procurement methods are a standing flexibility and do not require a waiver.

If utilized, the school can award the purchase without requesting bids from multiple suppliers. We recommend negotiating a reasonable price, if possible.

When experiencing difficulties with obtaining the products you need/want, you can look at alternative emergency procurement options:

  • Purchase from a grocery store, wholesale/bulk food supplier, local business – you should still attempt to get the best prices you can, but we understand with limited time and resources SFAs will do their best.
  • Purchase produce from local farmers or farm cooperatives.
  • If you had multiple distributors and some dropped you and some are still delivering, see what other products the one(s) still delivering to you have and can provide to you. Discuss with them what they have and what they could get if you ordered enough of it and gave enough lead time.
  • Supplies: If you are having trouble getting supplies you need like disposable trays look into different color trays that are not as popular but available, look into bags, boxes, etc.

Emergency noncompetitive procurement(s) must be properly documented, and records must be maintained

For example, a log of all such purchases must be maintained and reviewed monthly by the School Food Service Department. The log of emergency purchases should record, at a minimum, the following:

  • Date
  • Contractor/supplier name
  • If available, contractor/supplier primary contact information and address
  • Contractor/supplier name of person supplying pricing
  • Description of product and/or service being purchased/contracted
  • Purchase amount/contract value
  • If applicable, duration of contract (contract term)
  • Reason for emergency

Here is a sample logExcel Document.

Once the emergency situation is over, and if future purchases are needed, the school will need to follow normal procurement guidelines for those purchases.​​​​

 Communication

Communication is a key factor to ensure that challenges related to the food supply are managed and impacted parties' expectations are proactively managed.

  • Internally: Brief your superintendent, school board, and faculty on the food supply landscape. Let them know the potential impact on families, students, and the food service operations.
  • Your families: Ensure families know that meal substitutions may occur because of supply chain issues and posted menus may change at the last minute. Social media and school website are great tools to share this message.
    • Sample Letter to Families Regarding Menu Changes/Product Substitutions Word Document
    • Add a menu disclaimer addressing the food supply challenges. Sample: “Please note: The food supply chain is suffering delays and shortages nationwide causing our district to experience unavailable items or last-minute replacements. We apologize in advance if a posted menu item is not available, and we will always have a replacement item. We appreciate your patience and understanding!"
  • Vendors: Proactively reach out to understand vendor limitations and the landscape of food supply challenges. Share your cycle menu with them so they have an idea of what your district will need.
  • Stress the importance of a well-rounded healthy meal and doing the best you can. We all acknowledge that this is a very challenging time, and we know that the health and well-being of the students is a priority. With this goal in mind, as we all work through these challenging times, meals may not be the cycle menus we put so much thought and time into, but we know all the amazing food service staff in Illinois are going to continue to strive to put forth a healthy meal that includes the vitamins and nutrients children need to learn and to grow.
  • USDA Supply Chain Toolkit for Midwest School Meal PartnersPDF Document

 Partnerships

 Menus

  • Create menus that use products and recipes that are substitution friendly. For example, if chicken is not available, ham or turkey can be used instead in salads, sandwiches, and meal bowls.
  • Create a cycle menu, whether it be 3, 4, 5, 6 weeks, use standardized recipes, and use the USDA Food Buying for Child Nutrition Programs as tools to improve the accuracy of food procurement forecasts for food distributors.
  • Place product orders earlier and forecast food needs for a longer period.

 USDA Meal Pattern Waivers

​The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued several nationwide waivers that are available to sponsors participating in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Seamless Summer Option, and Child and Adult Care Food Program for School Year 2021-2022. Please read each waiver carefully for details and conditions.

As announced in the Illinois State Board of Education Nutrition Department's Sept. 21 webinarGo To Meeting Link, the waiver submission processPDF Document initiated at the beginning of the school year is pivoting due to updated U.S. Department of Agriculture guidance.

Sponsors still must complete School Sponsors Waiver No. 3 for non-congregate, mealtime flexibility, and/or parent pickup of meals if they need to utilize these waivers for in-person students because of COVID-19 through Dec. 31. Any waiver requested should only be used for the time needed due to COVID-19, as all sponsors should work towards compliance with all USDA program requirements, operating the school and community nutrition programs as normal, such as meals served and consumed on campus directly to students at the normal meal times.

There is no formal approval letter that is sent out after submission of the waiver request. We understand the need for the flexibilities with the pandemic and sponsors can use them accordingly. Staff will reach out if we need more information or clarification. We stress maintaining detailed documentation supporting use of all waivers available for School Year 2021-2022.

Sponsors will no longer need to submit the School Sponsors Waivers No. 1 survey for Onsite Monitoring; NSLP Offer Vs. Serve Grades 9-12; Sodium Target, SSO Meal Pattern Flexibility Through Sept. 30, 2021, and; Non-Congregate/Mealtime/Parent Pickup Flexibility for Remote/Quarantine Students ONLY. Requirements for requesting School Sponsors Waiver No. 2 is also paused (SSO/NSLP/SBP Meal pattern Flexibility Oct. 1 Through Dec. 31, 2021).

Instead of collecting these two surveys, the ISBE Nutrition Department will be reaching out at a later date to collect data from sponsors on the utilization of them. Be sure to document the use of all waivers. We recommend some sort of supply chain disruption journal to log and note all issues (dates, product, quantities, contacts made, etc.)​​

 USDA Foods/DOD Fresh/Processing Pounds

​​Contact ISBE’s Food Distribution team to discuss your commodity food order and what ordering flexibilities are currently in place to increase your commodity food order. This is FREE food that is delivered FREE to your school district. Please take advantage of available product. For more information, please visit our Food Distribution webpage or email fdp@isbe.net.​

 Additional Resources

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding your local Supply Chain issues please contact nutritionprocurement@isbe.net and/or cnp@isbe.net.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.​​

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