Independent school districts across Texas are facing a shortage of nutrition workers ranging from managers and cooks to servers.
Some districts are having to get aggressive and creative in recruiting and retaining employees to make sure students are taken care of in the lunchroom.
With student nutrition so important, it has become a top priority for many districts.
Most districts said the shortages are brought about because of rapid growth in student populations coupled with an economy that is doing well. There are more kids and far fewer job seeker with more districts competing for the job seekers across the region.
NBC 5 requested information from North Texas districts for a snapshot of the need:
“[We] have about 175 employees and currently have 6 openings. It is always a challenge to fill all of the positions. We also need substitute staff members because we are short in that category.”
“Currently we have 7 open positions. It seems the past couple of years this has become the normal practice. The number of work days and number of daily hours does make it a challenge to attract employees.”
“Our district is not experiencing a shortage of employees. There are a few vacancies but nothing out of the ordinary.”
CARROLLTON – FARMERS BRANCH ISD
“It is always a struggle with a strong economy and low unemployment rate. I can't say that is much worse than other years with the same economic situations. We have really amped up our recruiting efforts though -yard signs, added information about employment to the menus, etc..
We currently have the following vacancies:
• 2 Cafeteria Managers
• 2 Manager Trainee Position
• 14 Cafeteria Staff Vacancies
• 20 Cafeteria Floaters, but we have a pending recommendation for 11 that should be completed this week.
So, if the recommendations are completed then we will have a total of 27 vacancies out of 225 positions or 12% short.”
“We currently have one opening and are not experiencing a shortage of workers/attracting workers for our Child Nutrition program.”
“Currently, we only have one open position, which is for a cafeteria manager. Based on the last couple of years, that is fairly normal.”
There are 326 openings in Dallas ISD school kitchens which representatives for the district say is not out of the ordinary. For perspective there are currently around 1,600 people working in DISD school kitchens.
By the end of the Spring the DISD school board could consider pay raises for most lower-tiered salaries including nutrition.
“We began the year with a need for about 35 employees in the CNS department. We have since closed that gap to less than 10 employee vacancies which is about the norm for this time of year.”
EAGLE MOUNTAIN SAGINAW ISD
“We actually are doing well. Out of 170+ nutrition positions, we only have four open right now.”
FORT WORTH ISD
“Currently we have 92 part-time (4-6 hours) food service vacancies out of 813.”
“We are short and looking to hire 60-100 workers. Frisco ISD is hosting a job fair for child nutrition on Feb. 7.
“Our district is growing so rapidly. We from 2,500 to 3,500 new students every year which increases or participation and increases our meal production,” FISD Child Nutrition director Lisa Jenkins said.
“We have our employees who are cross trained. Even some in our central office that their main duty may not be working in a cafeteria but if needed we will bring them in and work as cashier or feed the kids,” Jenkins added.
“Garland ISD Student Nutrition Services currently has 20 vacancies out of a total of 420 staff. Our Director of Student Nutrition Services Bradford Trudeau shared that in his many years of experience, he would consider this a fairly normal number of open positions.”
“GCISD has been experiencing vacancies in Nutrition Services this school year. Currently, there are eight unfilled positions. These are being temporarily filled through contracted temporary personnel agencies. Eight vacancies is not higher than normal for our district in the second semester of the school year. Vacancies have been an ongoing challenge for a while in the strong Texas economy and with all of the competition in this area.”
HIGHLAND PARK ISD
“We have 1-2 openings, which is not out of the ordinary.”
“We currently have 7 vacancies and 4 substitute employees. This is very normal for this time of the year.”
LAKE DALLAS ISD
“Lake Dallas ISD has no Child Nutrition vacancies at this time.”
“Aramark, our food service provider, said we currently have eight cafeteria-area openings districtwide, which isn’t an abnormal amount for a district of our size. We have 28 schools in our district, each with a full-service cafeteria.
In terms of incentives, Aramark said there’s a referral program in place to retain and attract employees, and it’s increased its advertising of job openings to help raise awareness of the positions and hopefully hire individuals. It has also recently hosted a job fair.”