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Food shortages disrupt school meal plans in Anderson County

ACS nutrition director said children won’t go hungry, but the menu may not reflect what’s actually being served.
Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 7:04 PM EDT
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CLINTON, Tenn. (WVLT) - It’s a lose-lose situation for Anderson County Schools nutrition staff trying to figure out how to feed thousands of hungry kids this school year. The food supply chain is disrupted which has caused nutrition staff to adjust a couple weeks before the school year starts.

“We feel like it will be a definite challenge,” said Margaret Burrell, Nutrition Director for Anderson County Schools, “Our distributor is struggling mightily with drivers.”

Families rely on the school system for free meals.

Burrell said suppliers asked her to order food on a two week cycle instead of weekly.

“Lots of times you don’t have storage for two weeks worth of food. So we’re, we’re coming up with scenarios to deal with that particular request,” explained Burrell.

A supply chain expert and University of Tennessee professor, Thomas Goldsby, said our economy bounced back to its pre-pandemic state. So there’s a lot demand causing delays in Tennessee and around the world.

“As a result we’re having a really hard time meeting the pressing needs that we see,” said Goldsby, “When we have challenges to yield on the farm, challenges then to get from farm to processor, and then a reduced labor force at the production facility then the yield just continues to go down if you will and we see small delays becoming big delays.”

It’s worried Burrell.

“Not everyone is going to get exactly what they ordered, but they’re going to get some share of allocation that might be based on equity, it might be based on history with that vendor or some other measure of need,” said Goldsby.

But don’t worry, kids won’t go hungry.

“Our staff will do whatever it takes to get a meal out there,” said Burrell.

Burrell’s prepared the menu for months but food shortages are expected up until spring 2022.

It’s an ongoing cycle. If kids don’t choose to get the alternative options, ACS might not receive the federal funding to have free meals for these students in years to come.

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