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Watertown Public Schools Facing Food Supply Shortages, National Supply Chain Issues

WATERTOWN (CBS) -- Friday's lunch at Watertown's Middle School is expected to be popcorn chicken, mashed potatoes and corn.

Nutrition director Brandon Rabbit says he has those food items Thursday, but that's not always the case.

"We're struggling to make sure we get everything together in time, and making sure that we have all the products in stock and we have substitutions for everything that's missing," said Rabbit.

What's missing is now the key. National supply chain issues have forced the staff to pivot almost everyday. Rabbit can't even get a simple spork any more. They have to pay more for individuals knives and forks. And just because the menu says carrots doesn't mean he'll have them.

"We were anticipating 20 cases coming, and we ended up not getting any," said Rabbit.

Because of the pandemic, public schools are able to provide free breakfast and lunch through next year. That means in Watertown meals have now doubled to more than $2,000 a day. Adding to the list of challenges is Russo's of Watertown closing its doors. The popular local market was a produce supplier for as many as 90 school districts, including Watertown.

"Certainly, on a personal level, it's difficult," said Watertown Superintendent of Schools Deanne Galdston. "Russo's has been a major supplier of produce for decades and such a wonderful partner to have."

A new produce vendor is now being sought and the bids are out, but it's meant a few hiccups in the produce the school system was expecting.

"We learned last year we can pivot on a dime when we have to and that seems to be the new normal," said Galdston.

She says they are committed to providing a nutritious meal, even if it means a few lunchtime surprises.

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