How supply chain shortages impact nutrition in local schools

How supply chain shortages impact nutrition in local schools

Photo: Courtesy of Catherine Beam, CMS School Nutrition Services Executive Director.

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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Nutrition Services is “greatly affected” by supply chain shortages, according to the inventory supervisor. But the Executive Director says it’s not trickling down to the kids.

Executive director of Child Nutrition Services Cathy Beam tells Axios it’s a “non-issue” because CMS has something many school districts don’t have: An internal warehouse, with fresh fruits and veggies at the ready to feed students.

If CMS doesn’t have it at the warehouse, Beam says staff orders substitute products so they remain USDA compliant.

  • For example, students might get a different type of burger bun than the recipe originally called for, but they’re still getting a burger bun with their meal.
  • Or they may be eating off a three-compartment tray instead of a five-compartment tray.

“We’re having to work it, but we definitely have plenty of food and plenty of packaging,” says Beam.

The big picture: Supply chain issues are affecting schools across the Carolinas and country at all stages of production, including manufacturing, processing and delivery.

  • Vendor shortages, price hikes and lack of supplies are all to blame.
  • “Sometimes we don’t know when an item is going to be short until it’s time to receive it,” Tracy Dixon, the Richland One Director of Nutrition in Richland County, South Carolina, told WCNC. “One of the things we have to quickly do is modify the menu.”

Why it matters: Kids need to eat, and they need healthy options.

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  • About half of all U.S. public school children rely on free- or reduced-price meals. That’s a major reason parents were against going fully remote when the pandemic started. 
  • Already concerns abound that the pandemic could worsen childhood obesity rates.

It’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is sending $1.5 billion to help schools struggling to serve students healthy lunches. 

Some schools and childcare centers in the Charlotte area have had to get creative with their food orders.

Kids ‘R’ Kids director Kristen Idacavage says they’ve been dealing with food order issues since the beginning of the pandemic. So they started ordering earlier so they change recipes in case their food order doesn’t make it in time.

  • But, Idacavage tells me they are currently out of the black toner needed for their copy machine. “We can’t print anything right now and that’s a problem for any business,” she says.

The bottom line: Supply chain issues don’t stop in the cafeteria, and we may be dealing with the trickle-down effects for a while.

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