School districts dealing with food supply chain issues

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 7:47 PM CDT
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PELHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Many school districts are reporting layered supply chain issues impacting meal service operations for students.

“We’re a much smaller district - so we’re not dealing with what big school districts are dealing with - but we’re being impacted,” said Patrick McGavin, Child Nutrition Director Pelham City Schools.

Child Nutrition Leaders with Pelham City Schools say supply chain issues are slowing down, but at the same time increasing the costs of operations.

“Mostly lack delivery drivers in warehouses. When we’d get the trucks - they’d come in early,” said McGavin. “Now pushed later and staff are having to stay later and due to that we’re having to pay overtime hours.”

The district is also dealing with some supply chain issues with food items. Leaders say the district is looking at ways to mix up menus based on what’s available and is considering purchasing food straight from manufacturers.

Other districts are reporting issues with its supply chain. Jefferson County Schools announced it would no longer serve the cafeteria favorite Crispitos because the supplier reported a shortage of tortillas and workers.

Tuscaloosa County Schools announced in early September supply chain issues may cause menu items to change for students.

Pelham City School leaders say many districts are also serving a lot more students this year after the federal government extended the free meal service for all students during the pandemic. The district emphasized the goal is to make sure every hungry student gets a hot meal and they are working to make sure that can happen.

“For breakfast as a school system, we’re typically feeding anywhere from about 30 - 40 percent. Now, we’re at 45 - 50 percent. Lunch is typically 50 - 60 percent. We’re up to 70 percent right now,” said McGavin. “We’re creating a little bit of a stockpile, but we’re going to make sure we do everything we can to make sure the kids are fed.”

Some school districts - like Pelham City Schools - say sometimes they can go straight to the distributor to pick up food if they’re dealing with delivery delays now. District leaders say many school districts are also dealing with a shortage of paper goods which impacts trays and serving containers used to serve students food in addition to staffing shortages with employees out due to illness or caring for sick relatives.

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