COVID-19 has caused staff shortages at many businesses and organizations over the past 18 months, and this is now having an impact on how schools will feed their students.
The North Carolina Department of Public Education this week released a statement on how school nutrition services will be affected by food and supply shortages due to declining staff numbers.
“We look forward to providing free, attractive and nutritious breakfast and lunch meals to all students this school year,” the statement said. “School meals encourage students to learn throughout the day. Food and supply shortages as well as severe staff shortages are occurring across the country.
“NC school nutrition programs are responding by serving alternative foods or using last minute meal replacements. For this reason, menus may be subject to change without notice. We appreciate your patience and understanding.
The effects are slowly rippling through schools in the city of Whiteville, said Patricia Slater, supervisor of school nutrition.
“It hasn’t played a drastic role yet, but I did fill out a few waivers when I ran out of food. We work on our menu week after week, ”Slater said. “The school system suffers more from supply shortages, but there have been many food substitutions and last minute meal replacements in recent times. ”
Schools in the city of Whiteville prepare approximately 1,400 breakfasts and 1,600 lunches each week. There is also an online menu on their website that gives parents the option to help choose foods for children who may have an allergy.
“We always do a diet order for kids who have food allergies. Substitutions can change at the last minute, so we’re still honoring last year’s diet orders, ”commented Slater. She also says that the school cafeteria workers know very well which children need a special meal.
The supervisor says at this point that what they need from the general public is patience and understanding.
She says the food may not be what children are used to and the substitutions are beyond their control. “These babies love these peanut butter and jelly poppers, so I hope this won’t be one of those substitutions.”
Representatives from the county schools were not immediately available for comment.