Schools across the U.S. are compromising healthy meals for their students as they grapple with supply issues, according to a report.

The New York Times reports that schools were resorting to frozen food and even grilled cheese sandwiches to ensure their pupils were fed. Vegetables were scarce, too, forcing some schools to substitute with extra fruit.

Some other facilities even ran short on staples like chicken, bread, apple juice, and even plastic cutlery, making finger foods more common.

“Instead of tossed salad and apple sauce, students will get carrot sticks and apple slices. And in place of spaghetti and meatballs, chicken tenders are offered,” the news agency reported.

“I’ve never seen the supply chain in this much chaos, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” said Michael Rosenberger, Dallas Independent School District executive director for food and child nutrition services.

Staff shortage in the manufacturing and delivery industry has been among the leading cause of this crisis. 

“There are hundreds of businesses involved in the process of getting food from the farm to our loading docks and each one of them is experiencing severe labor shortages due to the COVID pandemic,” said Sara Williams, director of food service for Fairfield Community Schools, according to Goshen News.

As Williams said, several wholesalers have been forced to close due to warehouse strikes. 

Because manufacturers were reviewing their product ranges to maximize their retail lines, the number of school products was impaired, she explained.

The Rich Products Corporation, a Buffalo-based firm that sells food to more than 2,000 school districts, has trouble finding personnel. Many of its plants had up to 50 positions vacant, according to the Times.

Ginsberg’s Foods in Hudson, New York, has been forced to stop supplying food to 80 school districts because it did not have enough drivers and warehouse workers.

Cayce Davis, Child Nutrition Director for Elmore County Schools in Alabama, felt the impairment brought about by the delivery crisis.

“Every week, we receive a truck to supply the meals for the upcoming week. Last week 12 of our schools did not receive trucks,” Davis said, according to WSFA. “Today, about an hour and a half ago, we received word that two more schools would not receive trucks. So since Wednesday, we’ve missed out on getting 14 trucks of food.”

Elmore County Schools have tried to adjust menus and even resort to meat foam trays to substitute for plastic trays. WSFA noted there is little promise how the schools may manage the crisis if it persists longer.

Colleen Wruble, director of food service for Concord Community Schools, told Goshen News that the crisis might remain for the remainder of the current school year.

“We are hearing this situation could last well into 2022,” Wruble said. “Please be patient with school cafeteria workers as they navigate through this challenging time. We are truly trying our best to feed students with the food that is available.”

The Times reported that by Sept. 15, the Agriculture Department added a new exemption that was issued to lift schools from financial penalties over failure to fulfill the requirements due to supply-chain difficulties. It has also increased the amount of money it will reimburse schools for food costs.

That was in addition to a slew of other waivers to lessen burdens for schools to meet up federal dietary standards granted by the agency since the beginning of the pandemic.

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