According to the Times, schools across the nation are battling a number of issues when it comes to getting enough food. For example, there’s a shortage of truck drivers to transport food and supplies, like silverware, to warehouses. Worker shortage has also affected both food manufacturers and supplies, ranging from things like working on assembly lines to transporting food from warehouses to schools. In short, it’s a supply chain issue, and it’s really, really affecting kids.
“It’s corn, it’s broccoli, it’s hamburgers everything you can think of on the menu,” Jenna Knuth, North Kansas City Schools director of food services, told local outlet KMBC, adding that there’s barely enough food to feed the kids breakfast and lunch, much less offer menu options or selections. Similar to the explanation from the Times, Knuth told the outlet one issue is a lack of people available to deliver food from the warehouse to the school, and another issue is a lack of people to pick up the food to begin with.
So what are Kansas City schools doing? According to Knuth, making runs to stores like Sam’s Club to stock up on frozen options like hot dogs, pizzas, and tater tots. Knuth pointed out the obvious: Much of the food does contain higher levels of sodium and fat than what a school would normally provide. But students need to be fed.
“Making sure families have adequate food is huge,” parent Summer Livingston, whose 5-year-old goes to elementary school in the district, told local outlet KCTV 5. “Especially if kids can’t get that at home.” Livingston told the outlet her child loves healthy food and eats well at home, and she’s worried he won’t get food that’s good for him at school.
All of that scrambling understandably means food won’t always be available as promised on, say, a monthly menu that outlines meals. And as Tyeya Storms, who lives in western Michigan, tells local outlet WWMT, her own middle-schooler isn’t a picky eater, but she knows parents with kids who have serious food allergies might have cause for concern.
“It was just a warning to let us know kids who have dietary needs are reading the labels,” Storms told the outlet in reference to statements from the school district letting families know ingredients might change because of supply chain issues. “Because what’s on the menu might not be what they’re receiving.”
And still, schools are trying to get food on the table, one way or another.
“Diced chicken is like gold right now,” Cayce Davis, nutrition director for a school district in Alabama, explained to the Associated Press. Davis says she ordered more than 350 cases of the meat earlier this September but received 160 in the end. Why? Outages.
As the Associated Press reports, too, there’s the important reality that folks who work in cafeterias for schools do hard labor in moving, preparing, and serving significant amounts of food. And in some districts in the state, they’re short-staffed and pushed to the brink to not only do their job during the pandemic but also to think quickly about substitutions for meals and rotating between locations to fill in worker shortages. And while workers shouldn’t be going to work sick, period, it’s obviously especially important that food service workers who do have COVID-19 symptoms or exposure have the chance to stay home, get tested, and take care of themselves. That’s tough when there’s tremendous pressure and—literal—hungry mouths to feed.