The current fuel shortage crisis has created new challenges for school meals suppliers, forcing them to introduce a number of short-term measures to ensure children do not miss out, says the head of one of the region’s biggest school catering companies.

SIPS Education says it has been in discussions with its principle suppliers to mitigate the effects of fuel, food and driver shortages on schools; SIPS serves over 15,000 fresh and healthy meals every day (around two million meals every year) to students across the Black Country and wider West Midlands.

Its contingency measures include:

  • Identifying a range of pre-agreed suitable alternatives in case of shortages in particular product lines. This will help suppliers to keep the ordering and distribution process as smooth and speedy as possible
  • Where appropriate and in line with its HACCP (Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point) procedures, gradually increasing SIPS’ own ‘stores’ of key ingredients and products to help to address unexpected supply and delivery issues in the short term
  • Agreeing and identifying a variety of additional suppliers for certain product lines, where this has been possible

Chief executive, Brian Cape, commented: “Unfortunately, we are not immune to the current fuel and logistics challenges, and the current thinking is that it is likely that the industry will continue to be affected by these issues for several months.

“We had an informative meeting with one of our largest suppliers, where they updated us on the issues arising across the food industry. These include a shortage of personnel – particularly HGV drivers, but also warehouse and production staff; market conditions which remain unpredictable, with large fluctuations in demand causing problems for suppliers; and the lingering effects of the ‘pingdemic’, and related Covid-secure workplaces, which have caused a backlog in production.

“With that in mind, we’ve been working hard on continuity plans to ensure no pupil misses out; children are at the heart of everything we do, and a healthy, balanced and nutritious meal at lunchtime is a fundamental part of the school day.”

SIPS is a not-for-profit schools services co-operative for Sandwell, the Black Country and the West Midlands which provides a broad range of services to schools including IT, finance, safety management, HR, school improvement, music, catering and governance.