Food manufacturers and distributors have cancelled school district contracts as they struggle meeting demand from other, more lucrative, consumer and commercial markets.
Coupled with the labor shortage, this has left schools across the nation scrambling for food, supplies, and staff to meet the needs of students.
The crisis grabbed the attention of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who announced $1.5 billion in funding to help schools with supply and staffing shortages, reported The Washington Post (Sept. 29).
SCHOOLS SCRAMBLING ACROSS THE U.S.
Laura Benavidez, executive director of food and nutritional services at Boston Public Schools, which serves over 35,000 meals daily, told The Boston Globe that this school year has been a string of supply chain headaches.
In Alabama, schools are facing widespread food and utensil shortages, reported Newsweek (Sept. 28). Items like chicken and milk and food utensils such as plastic forks and trays are scarce. In one district, administrators told parents they might send kids home for remote learnings to “alleviate the stress on our food supplies.”
Missouri schools have been purchasing frozen pizza and hot dogs from Sam’s Club, while in Dallas they can’t find flatware or plates.
Vilsack put out a statement saying: “USDA is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to supporting the school meal programs, taking action to help schools get out in front of possible challenges and addressing other issues that arise from all angles and with all available resources.”
The USDA has not yet detailed how or when the $1.5 billion will be distributed. Though the funding can address the increased cost of food and supplies as well as boost salaries, advocates say the money could fall short when it comes to resolve supply-chain problems. Specifically, if contracts have already been canceled and foods diverted elsewhere, problems will persist.