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National supply chain problems have reached Buffalo's school cafeterias

The salad bar at School 81.
Buffalo Schools Parent Teacher Organization
Buffalo Public Schools cafeterias are seeing shortages of everything, from veggies to chicken to forks and knives.

Most people in Western New York have noticed the chicken wing problem. There are fewer of them and restaurants are charging more. Did you ever think about the possible shortages of the rest of the chickens?

Food for school cafeterias is a national problem, from that shortage of chickens to a shortage of plastic knives and forks to eat those birds.

Buffalo Public Schools are no different. BPS Food Service Director Bridget O'Brien-Wood has to provide 29,000 meals every day and it's never easy. But she said this year has been made worse this year with all kinds of shortages.

"We put our orders in in February of 2021, for all of our chicken and beef and turkey products that would be coming from the government commodity program.," she said, "and we were just finding out in late August that some of the manufacturers that have contracts with us were not able to meet their contracts, the requirements."

She said it's a daily struggle to get the food out and to meet nutrition requirements.

"Packaging issues have also been another issue that we're struggling with, with paper supplies for students who have utensils to eat with or to even to package the food so that it can get to us," she said. "So it's basically been driver shortages in the manufacturing companies and then packaging supplies."

O'Brien-Wood said one thing that's helped is the local agricultural market.

"We've been working with our local farmers. So that's been great," she said. "We've actually had to find another trucking company to help with those deliveries. So we're able to bridge that gap. Then we're also working with our local distributor and they have actually been delivering after hours and leaving the product in open coolers with the building administrators, engineering staff letting them in."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.