TWIN FALLS, Idaho — A new survey from the School Nutrition Association shows districts across the country are experiencing shortages of menu items and supplies, such as disposable lunch trays and portioning cups.
Many of the menu items schools have ordered are being discontinued by the manufacturer.
Delays come partly from worker shortages on all sides.
“We are hearing that staff shortages for manufacturers distributors and even school nutrition programs are really impacting are really impacting every link of the supply chain right now,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokesperson for the School Nutrition Association
Due to these rising costs and missing supplies, there are now more flexible federal guidelines for school nutrition departments, and the USDA is providing a higher reimbursement rate to cover pandemic costs.
“In our survey only about half of school meal program directors indicated that that current reimbursement rate is sufficient to cover costs. virtually all programs are seeing higher costs right now,” said Pratt-Heavner.
The USDA is issuing waivers to help ease procurement problems. The School Nutrition Association is urging the USDA to extend these waivers and continue providing higher reimbursement rates through the next school year.
The Twin Falls School District made adjustments after struggling to obtain specific types of trays and food items like fresh fruits.
“The menus don’t necessarily match up exactly with what is being served that day because we are having trouble getting the things that we planned for well in advance,” said Eva Craner, spokesperon for TFSD.
The USDA is providing free meals for students during the pandemic. While students continue to have access to meals, the planning and preparation behind these services is now much more difficult. Schools are having to make last minute adjustments and often limit the number of choices in the cafeteria.
Despite complications, TFSD continued to provide meals that meet health and safety standards.
“The folks that provide breakfast and lunch for our school district they care about the kids they want them to have healthy nutritious meals they want it to taste good they want it to look good and they’re working with these kids every day so they really are going above and beyond to make sure that our community’s children are fed,” said Craner.
TFSD encourages parents and students to be patient as school staff work to make sure students continue receiving nutritious meals.