ATLANTA (CBS46) — The national food supply shortages and staffing challenges are making it harder for Metro Atlanta schools to serve meals to students across the state.
CBS46 spoke to districts across the state about the impact on school lunch trays.
The Fulton County School District said they have to serve 90,000 students on a daily basis, but their cafeteria’s districtwide are now having to get creative just to feed students because of the ongoing supply chain shortages.
The district, received federal waivers to provide meals at no cost to all students this year, meaning now schools also have more bellies to feed.
The district said food manufacturers they depended on dialed back production when the pandemic hit and in turn were not ready to meet the demand when students returned to class.
Manufactures told the district they are also experiencing labor shortages which is slowing down production.
Now, they are adding new additions to student lunch trays to keep cafeterias running.
“We tried new items such as crispy pot nuggets. We have incorporated other fresh fruits such as plums, grapes and tangerines into our menu items and we are focusing heavily on our locally grown items,” Executive Director of School Nutrition for Fulton County Schools, Alyssia Wright said.
The district said they are also having issues hiring food servers because many are leaving for other jobs like Uber Eats.
Ron Wade, the Chief Talent Officer for the district said they are now working to attract moms to food server jobs.
“We offer full healthcare, pension and sick days. Often times our food service workers are moms and the schedule sort of aligns perfectly with the school day of their student so it really takes care of the childcare issue. We are telling that story to make sure people know there are opportunities in the Fulton County School District and, hopefully, it will give us the edge we need,” Wade said.
Meanwhile Gwinnett School District said they are experiencing similar issues but they are making it happen for students.
The district shared the following statement with us.
“Supply chain delays and shortages have impact just about every aspect of commerce, not just school lunchrooms. Gwinnett County Public Schools’ (GCPS) has not always been able to obtain the exact product, brand, or quantity of food that our school nutrition department typically gets, so it has relied on substitute brands or alternative food items to meet the needs of students. For example, if we are unable to obtain enough chicken nuggets for all our schools, we will offer an alternative item at the schools that don’t have nuggets.”
“It is important to note however, the supply chain challenges have not prevented the district from feeding all its students. In other words, our school cafeterias have not run out of food and will always have food options available for students to eat. As the largest district in the state, GCPS has contracted with numerous suppliers that can provide a variety of healthy and delicious options to ensure we can always meet the needs of our students,” Director of Community Relations Bernard Watson said.
Meanwhile, Communication Specialist Ronald Jones-Shields of the Clayton County School District also provided insight into the impact they are seeing districtwide.
“The issue with food supplies to our district is the same as most districts across the country relative to the supply chain. In light of our issues with the food supply chain, we have adjusted our menu offerings but continue to provide nutritious breakfasts and lunches that are compliant with USDA guidelines.”