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Supply chain shortages are putting a strain on Virginia school lunch rooms

Between rising case counts and staffing shortages, Virginia’s public schools were already...
Between rising case counts and staffing shortages, Virginia’s public schools were already facing plenty of challenges at the start of the fall semester. Then came supply chain problems.(Source: CDC CC0 Images via Canva)
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 6:19 PM EST
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Between rising case counts and staffing shortages, Virginia’s public schools were already facing plenty of challenges at the start of the fall semester. Then came supply chain problems.

“I think I was in the middle of a meeting when we found out there was no bread to be had from our distributor,” said Randy Herman, the director of nutrition services for Louisa County Public Schools. “I just wasn’t getting anything on the truck.” In Chesapeake, the same thing happened with chicken patties. Harrisonburg and Bristol have faced shortages of frozen pizza. Across Virginia, almost no school district has escaped the current unpredictability of the food supply chain.

“Once the deliveries started coming in, all of a sudden it became apparent that there was not enough products or the right products available,” said Sandy Curwood, director of the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of School Nutrition Programs. “And since then, industries have just been scrambling to meet those needs.”

Virginia isn’t the only state facing supply chain shortages, which have been hitting local school divisions for months. But amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they’re a particular burden. Since schools closed in March of 2020, districts have at least doubled their meal production, delivering not only lunches but often supper and snacks to students and their families. Many are feeding both in-school classes and students whose parents chose to enroll them virtually. And thanks to federal waivers, most schools are now providing all their meals at no cost, which has boosted uptake in breakfast and lunch programs as students return to the classroom.

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The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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