Officials say food shortage ‘crisis’ improving across Alabama schools

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 9:46 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The food shortage “crisis” Alabama schools have been faced with over the past couple of weeks is improving, at least for right now.

The Alabama State Department of Education reports that every school system across the state has enough food to feed their students, and that the speed at which food is being delivered has picked up.

This news comes just one week after supply chain issues and staffing shortages brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic left some schools scrambling to get food on students’ lunch plates.

“We’ve seen quite a turnaround in the state,” said Michael Sibley, director of communications for the Alabama State Department of Education.

Sibley said they are not out of the woods yet but are in a better place than they were just days ago.

“There’s not a school system in the state that’s without food or in a situation where they’re worried that if a truck doesn’t show up in the next day or two then they won’t have food for their students,” Sibley said. “No one is in that kind of dire situation right now.”

ALSDE said things are not completely back to normal though. Labor shortages are still impacting the delivery of food and the kind of food a child may have on their plate.

“There’s still a shortage of people that we need to get food to school systems,” Sibley said. “It’s just being worked out logistically where the food is there. It may not be exactly what the students want on the plate all the time, but food is there and it is available.”

Sibley said the scheduling and flexibility that has been employed over the last couple of weeks is working and that schools are getting the food they need. It’s all thanks to the child nutrition and cafeteria employees working overtime to make sure shipments of food arrive in a timely manner.

“We are still asking child nutrition workers to be mindful of their scheduling and to be creative in terms of when food can be delivered,” Sibley said.

ALSDE said federal resources were made available so schools could hire more staff and pay raises have been offered for child nutrition workers.

Also, through United States Department of Agriculture guidance, schools are being allowed more flexibility regarding what goes on a student’s plate.

Like many other schools systems across the state, Montgomery Public Schools said being creative has helped.

Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Ann Roy Moore said just a few weeks ago the primary company they rely on to deliver their food was not delivering, but that the company is now back up and running.

“We are now I would say out of the crisis mode,” Moore said.

MPS is still experiencing a food shortage, but through strategic planning and finding different food vendors, they’ve been able to find enough food for their kids to hold them over for the next couple of weeks.

“There is this ongoing, I think right now, crisis in the delivery of foods, but for right now we think we are covered for the next week or two. Then after that we’ll have to see what happens,” Moore said.

Moore said they are at the mercy of their food distribution companies and the supply chain problems those companies face.

“We depend on certain people to bring us certain things, and if they can’t get it then we have to regroup,” Moore said.

Though things have begun to turn around, the threat of a food shortage still remains. Sibley said schools will continue to be vigilant and work hard to ensure that all 687,000 children in Alabama who depend on schools to provide nutritious meals every day are fed.

“We’re starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, but again, we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and think that we’re completely out of the woods because that is not the case,” Sibley said.

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