CLINTON, Tenn. (WVLT) – ketchup can’t catch up right now. The small, customized ketchup packages are in great demand across the country.
That’s because the pandemic has caused many restaurants and schools to come up with more customized options including the packages.
This is a problem for Anderson County Schools.
The nationwide ketchup shortage affects school systems such as @ACSchoolsTN Why? To list a few reasons, more restaurants have reopened and individual servings seem to be preferred. Restaurants can negotiate prices, but schools have contracts that make it more difficult. @wvlt pic.twitter.com/OmtS785cmq
– Ashley Bohle (@AshleyWVLT) April 29, 2021
“We saw this coming and we ordered more, which I think is part of the problem. Everyone saw this coming, so they brought too much into the house,” said Margaret Burrell, director of nutrition at ACS.
With lunch rolling around, it’s one of the most popular dipping sauce options. Instead of going to a common room to get their sauces, children receive the packages from a food service employee.
“It’s a huge success because they really look forward to it when they come to the cafeteria. We want lunchtime to be fun and something like a dining experience,” said Burrell.
Clinton Middle School students usually have Heinz ketchup, but right now it’s Hunt’s. It’s a difference the kids didn’t care, but if there’s no ketchup they’ll notice.
“Supply can’t really keep pace with demand right now with the reopening,” said Burrell.
Burrell stated that restaurants can pay more if their suppliers say the price has gone up, but Anderson County Schools can’t because it’s on contract prices.
“We’re fighting there right now because we can’t compete with people who can pay more for it,” said Burrell.
And the shortage creates a domino effect. It affects the menu. Burrell chooses fewer options that involve the spice. Different meals also change how many students want to shop in the cafeteria, which affects funding.
“You wouldn’t think that one element would affect our cafeterias that much, but it does,” said Burrell.
It’s not just ketchup, other condiments, plastic utensils, and disposable bowls also seem to have limited availability.
Burrell said she is putting together a summer menu menu that uses only finger food, so no plastic utensils are needed.
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