Pandemic slows food deliveries, limits school lunch menus

By Allison Marlow
Posted 10/15/21

The good news: a federal program is providing free lunch and breakfast to all Baldwin County school students. The bad news: food shortages and delivery delays mean the choices for those meals are …

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Pandemic slows food deliveries, limits school lunch menus

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The good news: a federal program is providing free lunch and breakfast to all Baldwin County school students. The bad news: food shortages and delivery delays mean the choices for those meals are slim.

Currently Baldwin County School cafeterias have reduced their menus to a two-week cycle to focus on serving what is in easy supply, a list shortened by the aftermath of the spread of COVID-19.

Erin Miller, BCBE child nutrition program coordinator, said the crunch is being felt in school cafeterias across the nation.

“Child Nutrition Programs all over the state and nation have been experiencing food shortages and delivery delays, all related to the pandemic,” she said. “We have experienced significant delays in receiving trucks or trucks not delivering at all some weeks.”

Access to paper products, such as trays and silverware, has also been limited, meaning cafeteria officials have to balance not just what to serve, but how to serve it.

Luckily, finger friendly foods, and student favorites such as hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and chicken nuggets remain readily available.  Corndogs, however, are gone. And many students are still lamenting the loss of the popular crispito meal which disappeared from the menu early in the school year.

“We tried to keep some of the student favorites on the menu so the reaction has not been all negative,” Miller said. “The CNP staff are working very hard to make the meals appealing and pleasing to the students, despite the hardships. Our ultimate goal is to provide each student with a nourishing meal to get them through the school day.”

The school system serves roughly 19,500 lunches every day and 4,500 breakfasts, an increase from 18,000 lunches and 4,000 breakfasts served during the 2019-2020 school year.

Miller said the increase is due to the return of thousands of students to brick and mortar facilities from the virtual school, enrollments of students new to the system and an increase in students opting to eat at school and take advantage of the free meals program. This waiver program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and is at no additional expense to the school system or to residents.

Miller said there are no estimates of when the menu will return to the four-week cycle.

“Unfortunately, companies are telling us that it will get worse before it gets better. We are not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel just yet,” Miller said. “For now, we have plenty of nutritious food to serve our students so there is no need to panic.”