Schools struggle to feed students amid supply chain issues

Wetumpka, Alabama — School officials across the country are scrambling to put food on students’ lunch plates amid supply chain issues and labor shortages. 

About 97% of school nutrition programs are worried about continued supply chain issues, according to a School Nutrition Association survey. 

Cacyce Davis, who directs nutrition for schools in Elmore County, Alabama, has to feed about 8,000 kids breakfast and lunch five days a week. With a delay in the schools’ usual food delivery, Davis arrives at Sam’s Club for a last-minute grocery run. 

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

Davis spent $1,500 on 180 pounds of beef roast for the next day’s lunch. She was in need of beef tips but the other cut was all she could find for Redland Elementary to serve. 

To deal with the shortage, the district has set up a makeshift warehouse to store supplies in case the situation becomes worse. The staff had to learn how to work with pallet jacks and lifts. The staff now works long hours, storing, packing and delivering food to schools that didn’t receive their scheduled delivery. 

“We’re going to do the best we can to keep serving,” Davis said. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it is giving out $1.5 billion to help school systems struggling to serve meals. The agency will reimburse Elmore County for Davis’ grocery runs.