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Food shortage is impacting Akron Public Schools

"Getting enough product in to feed 22,000 or 23,000 students is not that simple at the moment."

AKRON, Ohio — Have your kids been complaining about school lunches lately? 

It’s not just the students who are frustrated. Administrators say supply chain issues have made it more difficult for them to find the food and products to serve your kids. 

At Ellet Community Center in Akron, it's lunchtime at 11 a.m. and there's a simple menu on this day. Corn dogs or yogurt parfaits, some sides, and milk to drink.

"Normally, we’d have 4 or 5 different things they could choose. We just can’t get enough product in to get that kind of variety out to the students," says Ryan Foulk, nutritional services specialist for Akron Public Schools. 

Foulk is in charge of ordering and distributing food to dozens of schools in the district. That's a job that's been made more difficult as the national supply chain has become strained.

"There are shortages on flour, who ever would have thought that? Paper companies are now having a problem, along with plastic cups. Getting enough product in to feed 22,000 or 23,000 students is not that simple at the moment," he adds.

Schools are serving more meals than ever before with the federal government covering the tab until June 2022 as part of the USDA's National School Lunch Program. That means more orders are being placed. 

But manufacturing operations have yet to reach 100% and delivery drivers are still hard to find, limiting options for school districts to choose from. 

"Let me use pizza as an example: A year ago I could order anything, ten thousand different kinds. Now I’m down to two choices," explains Foulk. "You don’t know, currently, if you’re going to be shorted on your delivery until it shows up."

Fortunately, Akron utilizes a large food distribution warehouse to stock a week's worth of food options. For smaller districts, the effects are much greater. 

"Even if they tell you 2 or 3 days in advance, that is not enough time to get a different product in," cautions Foulk.

Options will be slim for a while. Foulk says he doesn’t expect the supply issues to get any better over the next six months. 

Remember these meals are crucial for many families and children who have struggled throughout the pandemic.

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