HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Supply chain issues have affected numerous industries including one very important one, school cafeterias.
News 19 reached out to all of the school districts in North Alabama from the Shoals to Dekalb County. They say the shortages and delays have impacted the quality of meals they provide.
We received reports of late food shipments, broken kitchen appliances with parts on backorder, and even improvisation with daily meals.
The Alabama State Department of Education tells News 19 it will receive a total of $15.6 million from a $1.5 billion initiative through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That money will be used for supply chain assistance funding.
These funds can be used by school districts to purchase unprocessed and minimally processed domestic food such as fresh fruit, milk, cheese, frozen vegetables, and ground meat.
ASDE will be required to allocate the funds to schools based on student enrollment, with a minimum amount per district to ensure that small schools aren’t left behind.
The USDA says an additional $5 million has been set aside for USDA food purchases in Alabama. They plan to purchase 100% domestically grown and produced food products for states to distribute to schools to offset the impact of disruptions to their normal supply chains.
States will be able to order the additional food within the coming weeks, with deliveries to occur as soon as possible.
The USDA has also allocated over $3 million to be used to purchase local foods in Alabama. An effort to support local food chains and under-served producers and processors.
These supply chain assistance funds are expected to provide a boost in resources for up to 100,000 schools across the nation.
ASDE told News 19 they are hopeful this initiative will provide some relief. However, at this time, the office doesn’t see an end to these challenges that are plaguing the school meal programs.
The funds will likely go directly to ASDE on January 4, and they are to be disbursed by the state on March 1, according to ADSE.