A shortage of lorry drivers, a lack of staff and import delays has led one of the UK’s largest canteen suppliers to warn schools to stockpile certain foods as some are proving harder to source.
ISS, who offer hospitality and catering management, has told the 450 schools it cooks meals for that it is having issues with the “sourcing, packing and distribution” of food supplies.
The company added that “the problem will get worse and is likely to continue until at least February.”
In an email seen by ITV News, staff in ISS school kitchens have been urged to “top up on long life, dried, tinned and frozen products to ensure that there will always be some form of food available in a worse case scenario.”
Schools are advised that ISS “is confident that their supply team will be able to provide product throughout.”
However, they have been warned that menus could be changed at short notice because of the issues.
ITV reported that jacket potatoes, which are easier to source, are the contingency plan as fish fingers are proving harder to source.
While potatoes are ok, tinned fruit, mayonnaise, soft drinks, fresh yoghurt, margarine, bread and ham are some foods there are shortages of, according to a presentation seen by the aforementioned title.
Schools were advised to always be “carrying a minimum of two weeks stock,” while those with extra storage capacity are advised to “stockpile staple items.”
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A spokesperson for ISS told ITV News that their ability to provide nutritious school meals is “not being impacted by the well-publicised shortages of items that the UK is currently experiencing,” and that there are “contingency plans” in place in case of shortages.
LACA, which represents catering managers in local authorities as well as private contractors for primary and secondary schools, mentioned “intense pressure” that food suppliers are under, while BidFood, one of the UK’s largest food wholesalers, said their service has been disrupted by a lack of HGV drivers.
This month, the government promised more support to help people to become HGV drivers as well as a package of measures to try and ease the risk of shortages.
The plans include up to 4,000 people being trained as new HGV drivers, using MOD examiners to help increase immediate HGV testing capacity by thousands over the next 12 weeks and nearly 1 million letters sent to drivers already with a HGV driving licence, encouraging them back into the industry.
The UK also recently experienced fuel shortages, and panic buying from the public, seeing petrol prices rise to 136.1p a litre, the highest level for eight years.
The rise in fuel costs comes as households face a triple blow of increases, with energy bills rising in October as furlough ends and a £20 a week cut to Universal Credit kicks in.
The Bank of England has separately warned that higher energy costs would push inflation above 4% this winter, hitting even food prices.