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Super freezers helping Elmore County schools curb food shortage

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 4:25 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2021 at 10:36 PM CDT

ELMORE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Global supply chain issues and staffing shortages brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced school systems across the nation to find innovative ways to keep students fed.

For one school system in Alabama, that meant purchasing large freezers to help store frozen food items from a company that is also helping keep COVID-19 vaccines cold.

“We’re willing to do whatever we have to do to keep serving our kids, and we want to keep serving them food items that they like,” said Cacyce Davis, child nutrition director for Elmore County Schools.

Elmore County Schools is facing the same problem as many other school systems across the state. The trucks they rely on to deliver food to their students are not showing up.

“Our distributors were having difficulty for many different reasons getting food to us, and so we knew we needed a backup plan,” Davis said.

To stay ahead of the supply chain problem, the school system decided they needed to purchase as much of their products as they could in bulk.

Those bulk items are now being stored at a large warehouse. A building that was not ever used in the capacity it is now prior to the pandemic.

The warehouse is being used to store all of their paper products, plastic trays and dry goods. The problem arose, however, when they discovered the lack of space available to store all of their frozen food items they planned to order in bulk too.

This is where Wetumpka resident Craig Elliot came to the rescue.

“We heard a need here. We had a product that fit the application,” Elliot said.

Elliot is an employee with manufacturing company Trane Technologies. After hearing about the need to store large amounts of frozen food, Craig was able to acquire two super freezers for the school system.

“This is a tight-knit community and we all come together to help each other out anytime we can,” Elliot said.

The same type of freezers being used to now store the food in the freezers just outside of the warehouse are the same types of freezers being used to store COVID-19 vaccines.

“At one point you could be using them for storage of the vaccine or medication or blood plasma, and then you may have the need for storage of frozen foods,” Elliot said.

The freezers offer more room for the school system to stock up on certain items in short supply like proteins and vegetables. So now when a delivery of food doesn’t arrive, they have the freezers to rely on.

“I think my exact message to Elliot with Trane was ‘You are going to be our lifesaver,’” Davis said.

Now, the same type of freezers being used to help vaccinate are being used to help meet a different need.

“I have said many times during this COVID pandemic that we’ve dealt with many, many obstacles, but almost every time those obstacles lead to opportunities and great new partnerships,” Davis said.

Between the two freezers, about 1,030 cases of food can be stored, proving two weeks worth of entree items for students.

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