Government leaders are exploring ways to incentivize food distributors to prioritize K-12 schools because schools around the country are struggling to find enough food to feed students.
Barbara Shaw, the Food and Nutrition Services coordinator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, tells Missourinet there is no easy solution.
“It’s kind of coming down to institutions,” she says. “So we don’t want to compete with healthcare. You know, we don’t want to take away but we have to find a way to balance and that’s the challenge of it.”
Some companies have even dropped their contracts with some Missouri schools because they cannot fill orders.
“I would say every school in Missouri is being impacted on some level, whether they had a contract that was dropped or whether they were not dropped by their distributor but their distributor is just not able to meet all the terms and conditions of their contract,” she says.
Shaw says the disruptions are highly driven by distribution warehouse worker shortages.
“Due to low staff right now, and due to COVID related illnesses, the warehouse is having a lot of issues around staffing shortages. It’s a problem across the nation. It’s not just affecting Missouri schools,” she says.
Shaw says an increase in demand is also causing interruptions because all schools can feed kids for free and the demand has shifted at places like grocery stores and restaurants. A shortage of supplies, like boxes and pallets to store food in, is adding to the problem.
Then there’s a truck driver shortage and the distance those trucks are traveling.
“For example, Kohl’s Wholesale is located in Quincy, Illinois. So they have still been able to provide service to that northeast corner because that’s closest to their warehouse,” she says. “Whereas if they had a contract with the Kansas City School, they’re more likely to drop that contract because it’s further away. Plus, it’s a higher demand and they’re getting a lower profit off of it.”
The state has contacted schools having problems and given them suggestions to find food, such as calling nonprofits, local grocers and farmers.
To hear the Show Me Today interview with Barbara Shaw, click below.
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