Parents in multiple Alabama school districts have been warned to feed their children breakfast and send them to school with snacks, as supply chain shortages have severely impacted food deliveries.
District leaders ask parents to feed their own children and pack snacks before sending them to class as workers work around the clock to keep pantry stocks stocked.
The situation is so dire in the state’s Dothan City Schools district that officials are considering switching to virtual learning for part of the week to “relieve the stress of our food supply.”
It’s not a problem unique to Alabama, as supply and labor shortages cripple cafeterias across the country.
A Philadelphia principal ordered 400 pizzas for her elementary school students who would otherwise have gone hungry when a scheduled food order failed to arrive last month. In other states, school staff have resorted to running their own errands for students.
“Essentially, what we have here is a perfect storm,” Stacy Koppen, director of nutritional services for the St. Paul Public Schools district of Minnesota, told KSTP.com. ‘We have a shortage of raw grads, we have a shortage of people in the labor market, and at the same time everyone needs more of everything.’
Preparing meals at Dothan City Schools (like the one pictured) has been challenging due to labor and supply shortages, the district superintendent said
Dothan Superintendent Dennis Coe said labor and resource shortages are driving the district’s ability to “feed our children every day.”
The shortage is causing a stir in the menu as districts struggle to create meals with limited ingredients.
“As we prepare to do everything possible, your support would be greatly appreciated by being willing to send your children to school with their packed lunches,” Coe wrote in a letter to parents.
“As a last resort, we may also ask you to prepare for virtual/external school days a few days a week to relieve the stress of our food supply. Rest assured, the free breakfast and lunch will remain available to all students.’
Supply chain challenges left the Decatur City Schools district without food in late August, forcing staff to drive about 80 miles to Birmingham to buy three truckloads of groceries, the district said.
Alexander City Schools asks parents to ease the tension by feeding children breakfast and sending them to school with snacks. It is experiencing delivery issues with food vendors
Alexander City Schools asks parents to feed their children breakfast and bring a snack before they are sent to school.
The district serves breakfast and lunch daily but said it has not received food deliveries for weeks due to a shortage of drivers, supplies and warehouse workers.
‘When supplies do come in, we don’t always get what we asked for; therefore changing the menus,” the district said in an Oct. 9 Facebook post.
“This is a situation that is frustrating for you as a parent, and for us and our ability to nurture our students is greatly affected.”
Tortilla and labor shortages forced Scottsboro City Schools to scrap its popular crispito item
Meanwhile, Scottsboro City Schools announced in August that it would stop offering its popular “crispitos” for lunch due to a shortage of tortillas and workers.
“It will be sad when we serve the last crispito we have in stock,” the district said in a Facebook post.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in April it would fund free lunches for schoolchildren nationwide throughout the current school year, regardless of parental income.
The gesture increased lunch orders by about 20 percent in Elmore County Schools, according to children’s nutrition director Cayce Davis.
The USDA offers free lunches year-round to schools across the country
She said she is struggling to meet demand as she juggles the increased responsibilities due to a staff shortage.
“Right now, our goal is not to be the cause of the school closing,” Davis told AL.com in late September. “I think we’re hardly going to skate by offering our meals this week.”
Diced chicken “is like gold right now,” she added.
Satisfying picky eaters and allergy sufferers can be a challenge with schools’ limited menu
Up to 12 million children could lack food during the pandemic, the department said in a press release.
In Alabama, about 25 percent of children live without food security, according to No Kid Hungry.
Aid could be on the way thanks to the USDA, which said it will spend up to $1.5 billion to help schools fend off food disruptions.
Numerous Alabama school districts, including Scottsboro, are affected by the issue
The Alabama State Department of Education said the local situation is improving.
“There’s no school system in the state that’s out of food or in a situation where they’re concerned that if a truck doesn’t show up the next day or two, they won’t have food for their students,” Department of Education spokesman Michael Sibley told Prev. week at WSFA12.
“No one is in such a dire situation right now.”
Alabama is not alone.
In Missouri, where even obtaining paper plates has been a challenge, school staff have resorted to buying their own groceries at stores like Sam’s Club.
“It’s just been kind of a nightmare,” Shawndra Taylor, the director of the Eldron School District, told the Missouri Independent.
Last month, some students were denied food at a Philadelphia elementary school due to staff shortages in the Philadelphia School District, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Mitchell’s primary school principal Stephanie Andrewlevich said she took matters into her own hands after learning that no food would be served on Sept. 23.
“As soon as the stores opened, I ordered pizza for 400 students to try lunch service,” Andrewlevich said in a letter obtained by the researcher. “Some pizzas arrived and served to students, some did not arrive at 2:15 PM and students were not served.”