A new business deal between the State of Florida and a high-profile cargo carrier could ease the country’s supply chain woes and bring upwards of a thousand new jobs to the states. Meanwhile, the Hernando County School District (HCSD) continues to grapple with shortages and higher prices connected to glitches in the nation’s supply chain.
Beginning in 2021 a COVID-19- driven lack of port, trucking, and manufacturing personnel kept supermarket shelves bare and caused massive headaches for procurers of goods needed to keep schools and other public institutions running smoothly.
During a March 4 press conference in Jacksonville, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the Singapore-based global cargo carrier Sea-Land Shipping will transfer a portion of its operations from the Port of Long Beach, Calif. To JAXPORT. The move represents the first East Coast container service for the firm and connects Jacksonville to four locations in Asia.
While the deal is good news for Florida, it didn’t prevent the HCSD from taking emergency measures to solve its own supply chain-related problems.
Last month, ongoing fractures in the supply chain forced members of the Hernando County School District (HCSD) Board to approve an emergency order for 336 cases of Grilled Teriyaki Chicken to fill the District’s food service larder. However, the poultry shortage isn’t the only one that’s got the District scrambling to ensure that schools get what students need in a timely manner.
HCSD Public Information Officer (PIO) Karen Jordan said that despite provisions written into District procurement rules, coping with shortages and price fluctuations has been challenging.
According to Jordan, school districts, including HCSD, operate under specific rules that govern all their purchases. Emergency purchasing procedures are in place to help expedite purchases made during temporary situations.
“But, the process is still impacted by the availability of products and materials,” Jordan said.
That means shortages of everything from paper to machine parts.
“Some examples are paper goods in the food services area, digital devices in the technology department, and replacement parts/equipment in many areas,” said Jordan. “We are finding equipment may be available but is taking much longer to receive.”
Still, availability is just one factor. Higher freight and distribution costs and outright shortages all contribute to the District’s supply chain-related challenges. Meeting them requires a combination of adjustment and alternative planning.
In the case of the teriyaki chicken, the product’s distributor was unable to provide it because it was not in stock, so the District’s food services department turned to the product’s manufacturer to obtain it directly. Similarly, staffers are forced to adjust to shortages of other supplies and materials whenever they occur.
“For example, our meal service to students has changed in response to limited availability of paper products,” Jordan said. “Serving lines have moved to self-service for cold fruits and vegetables, as we can’t get cups to portion those items out for students.”
In some cases, available products are substituted for unavailable ones, while some are sourced from local suppliers as long as those products meet quality standards and procurement rules.
“For example in our food service department, strawberries have been purchased from (a local grower) in Winter Garden,” she said.
While supply chain-related glitches are not likely to entirely disappear very soon, some are being slowly resolved, Jordan said.
“Some areas are seeing reduced delays (and) some supply issues are easing up but it is hard to be specific,” she said. “In the meantime, Staff in all of our district departments work closely with schools to meet supply shortages and find alternatives wherever possible.”