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Food Shortages Resulting in Schools Struggling to Feed Kids

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Food shortages are hurting schools around the country whether you know about it or not. It’s all about supply chain issues and worker shortages.

First of all, the U.S. Department of Agriculture came out before this year’s school term to give students in public schools free breakfast and/or free lunch to any child between ages 1 and 18.

It may beat brown-bagging it some days for a hot lunch. And some students may not get an adequate meal when dinnertime rolls around. According to the No Kid Hungry organization, as many as 13 million children in the United States live in “food insecure” homes.

However, school systems throughout the country are struggling to put food on their plates due to supply chain issues and labor shortages.

Worried About The Program

One survey from the School Nutrition Association said 97 percent of programs are worried about supply chain issues.

In Elmore County, Ala., Cacyce Davis has struggled to feed 8,000 kids breakfast and lunch five days a week. Davis has had to make Sam’s Club runs for last-minute items in a pinch.

“This is a quick solution for our meal tomorrow, but it is not a solution to the problem,” she told CBS. “It appears that there are cracks at all points in the supply chain.” 

When Davis spent $1,500 on 180 pounds of beef roast to prepare for the next day’s lunch, she couldn’t get what she needed. She needed beef tips, but the roast was all she could find for her Redland Elementary hungry eaters.

Quick Fixes For Food

Davis’s district, along with others, has set up makeshift warehouses if the supply situation worsens.

Food workers who thought they’d be scooping mash potatoes on plates are now working long hours to move crates on pallet jacks and lifts. CBS said the Elmore County staff worked on other non-direct food things they didn’t get a scheduled delivery now and then.

But Davis and her staff know they can’t slow down or quit. She said her team would “do the best we can to keep serving.” 

In late September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it is giving out $1.5 billion to help struggling school systems. The agency will reimburse Elmore County and other schools for grocery runs. 

In a Sept. 29 statement, the USDA said, “it has been working to identify ongoing issues school districts face during this difficult time and provide the resources, tools, and flexibility they need to serve students healthy and nutritious meals.”

Another Alabama School Facing Issues

Dothan City schools are adjusting on the fly with last-minute changes to lunch menus. Not only are they dealing with supply chain issues, but a shortage of delivery drivers has made things challenging.

Romper reported that school officials had asked parents to bring their Star Wars-themed lunch boxes back to school now and then. They also warn more extreme actions.

“As a last resort, we may also ask that you prepare to have virtual/remote school days a few days out of the week to alleviate the stress of our food supplies,” the district wrote in a letter to parents.