Glitches in food supplies (October 2021)

Junior kids, keep pre ordering your food folks using SCO pay. Infant kids no changes - you're all fine

I am writing to outline the current difficulties within the food and wider distribution network which continue to affect product availability and delivery consistency. You may already be aware of the reported national shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers, which is impacting food supply consistency, with many of the major high street food retailers and supermarkets having reported shortages across key products over the past month or more. Lancashire food contracts place a reliance upon the procurement of local produce which mitigates, to some extent, the issues associated with the overland/sea transportation of foods from other countries. Key product lines such as fresh raw and cooked farm assured meats, dairy produce, seasonal fruit and vegetables are produced within the boundaries of Lancashire. This ensures that the council has ready access to fresh foods which are generally unhindered by the national shortage of HGV drivers and associated EU border control issues. Whilst we are relatively unaffected by restrictions to high volume fresh foods, the same cannot be said for produce which comes from farther afield or which goes through production processes before canning or freezing. These types of products are more susceptible to delays through the supply chain than fresh local produce and this is where we have already begun to see some product shortages. In addition to product shortages, we are also encountering difficulties associated with the national shortage of heavy goods drivers. Ralph Livesey, our appointed distributor, has been unable to recruit drivers to newly created positions which are required to fulfil the volume requirements of Lancashire school food orders. Additional vehicles which do not require heavy goods driver licences have been secured as an interim measure. We expect to see further disruption to food supplies and delivery consistency over the coming weeks and months, with industry experts predicting that the national shortage of heavy goods drivers is set to last for up to12-18 months. This is likely to be further exacerbated by the 01 October 2021 EU Brexit Phase 2 Border Operating Model which will require mandatory veterinary health certificate for meat, eggs, dairy products, fishery products and many other products of animal origin being imported to the UK. It is expected that these requirements will add significantly to the time it takes to complete customs checks and resultantly, lead to further delays within the distribution process.

Whilst we would ordinarily endeavour to ensure that the full published menu is available daily, the wider issues associated with food supplies and deliveries means that we may not be able to produce the published menu as consistently as normal. It is likely that product availability of some manufactured frozen produce will continue to be impacted, as with certain tinned and dry goods, which may require local menu adaptations. Unit Catering Supervisors have been asked to communicate any shortages with their Headteacher directly and to agree suitable substitutions where necessary. We apologise for the inconvenience that this may have on individual schools and would ask for your understanding during what is an evolving national situation. Please do not hesitate to contact myself or your Operations Manager should have any questions in relation to this communication.

Yours faithfully Nigel Craine

Head of Schools & Residential Care Catering Lancashire County Council