CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Debilitating supply chain disruptions have up-ended the beginning of the school year for districts across the country as food shortages force officials to find creative ways to adequately feed children.
A labor shortage has affected the food distribution and production industries. There’s not enough workers on production lines, in warehouses and driving delivery vehicles. At schools, unfilled cafeteria positions have forced staff to serve lunches and some have stopped providing hot meals altogether.
School meal programs have become even more crucial during the pandemic after the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last spring that it would extend universal free lunch through this school year, a way to reach millions of children burdened by hunger and food insecurity.
Concerns over the delta variant have some shoppers buying a little more than typical, just in case they need to buckle down and stay at home for a while. A lot of ready-to-eat items like frozen meals or shelf-stable boxes of mac and cheese are in especially high demand, so they may be harder to find.
But it’s not just heightened demand causing issues – supply is also a problem right now. An aluminum shortage is making canned products like sodas, soups and canned meats hard to find, too, Holcomb says. Those are packaged in aluminum and shelf-stable, so they’re both in short supply and in high demand.
Even when you can find your groceries, they’re likely more expensive. The price of meat, poultry, fish and eggs rose 5.9% from July 2020 to July 2021, according to the Department of Labor. Overall food-at-home costs are up 2.6%.
School districts across the country are facing difficulties in providing the same type of school lunches they had before the pandemic.
“We are working hard to return the beloved staple to schools and other foodservice locations by early 2022,” a Tyson spokesperson said via email.