With Covid-19, we lived through product shortages throughout 2020, as the public raced to stores to get the last bit of sanitizer and toilet paper. Social media groups kept people apprised when new stock arrived at the local grocery or the big-box stores. Generally, most people helped one another with supplies, as opposed to hoarding products or gouging others reselling the goods at inflated prices.
Through 2021, we continue to experience price increases in our grocery stores (i.e., meats, coffee) and frequently see bare sections on grocery shelves. Truly, the missing food is merely an annoyance and/or “First World” problem; there are plenty of other options to change meal plans based on available food.
Restaurants manage the shortages proactively: menus have restricted “favorites” offerings, which are tied directly to available goods. Not surprisingly, as their doors were re-opened to the public, the menu selections haven’t returned to the original list. For me, I am still grieving the loss of Cheddar’s onion rings and Olive Garden’s stuffed chicken marsala!
The shortages have a much more dramatic impact in hospitals and healthcare facilities. Menus are required to meet stringent guidelines and the items listed are expected to be served. Substitutions are incorporated in emergency situations such as damaged/missing products, recalls, unexpected census counts, etc.
Unfortunately, the current reality is daily (and unexpected) shortages/substitution items. When the items are missing, staff is educated on the changes, and menus need to be modified to reduce confusion with patient selections. Nutrition software can assist with making quick & temporary menu substitutions, when possible, or removing unavailable items.
One facility mentioned posting a long list of shortages in the diet office, updated daily. Another interviewed facility reported a problem with getting packaged iced tea. They considered making the tea but staffing shortages and unavailable plastic cups/lids prevented a reasonable workaround. Many supplements and feedings products are either in short supply, or the containers they are packed in are not available.
Substitution items present additional considerations. The new item may not comply with the original item, specifically in terms of allergies, diet compliance, and recipe application. Quick action with nutrition software helps with assigning allergy and diet compliance. To that end, research reports that facilities are retaining all restrictions for the substitution items – to be safe. The items will be realigned to the specific conflicts when back in stock.
We have been lucky to have food & products readily available – almost always. This new world of shortages brings about challenges that test our flexibility and creativity. Congratulations go out to Food & Nutrition departments for their efforts to deliver patient menus/selections!