In an October 9 post on the Alexander City Schools Facebook page, officials explained that the city's schools had not received food deliveries in previous weeks due to "suppliers who are short on supplies, drivers and even warehouse employees."
Alexander City schools serve breakfast and lunch daily and the district warned that breakfast could be impacted more so than lunch in coming weeks.
Officials said that action had been taken to open accounts with other vendors in an attempt to diversify supply options.
"If possible, we ask that you feed your student breakfast prior to school or try to send a snack. Some of you have noticed our menus have not been updated regularly. When supplies do arrive, we do not always receive what we have requested; therefore altering the menus. This is a situation that is frustrating for you as a parent, and for us as well as our ability to feed our students is being greatly impacted," the post said.
In an update on Tuesday, Alexander City Schools thanked parents and community members for an outpouring of support regarding the issue.
"Alexander City Schools felt it was necessary to alert our parents of the ongoing supply chain issues. We also wanted to notify parents that menu selections could be limited based on item availability during weekly deliveries. At no time were our students not offered or served a meal for lunch or breakfast," the district wrote.
Officials said they were working with Southern Food Services to help alleviate some of the strain and broaden their Child Nutrition Program.
Parents would be informed of menu alterations on the night before via social media.
"Our mission is to inspire hope and create pathways for student success. Nutrition has the potential to positively influence students' academic performance and behavior which impacts their ability to be successful in the classroom. For this reason, we will continue to make substitutions when necessary and/or limit menu options in order to continue to feed our students," Alexander City Schools wrote.
"Again, we appreciate your patience and understanding as we face this nationwide issue," the district said.
The U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences shows that Alexander City had a total of five schools with more than 3,000 students for the 2020 to 2021 school year.
AL.com reported Monday that the district had 2,870 students last school year, with 65% enrolled in free and reduced-price meals, citing data from the Alabama State Department of Education.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, schools around the state are in similar predicaments and the outlet noted that southeastern Alabama's Dothan City Schools asked parents in September to prepare for a possible shift to remote learning due to food supply issues.
"As a last resort, we may also ask that you prepare to have virtual/remote school days a few days out of the week to alleviate the stress of our food supplies. Rest assured, breakfast and lunch at no charge will continue to be available to all students. However, we face a situation where we must do everything we can to continue providing a nurturing environment for our students to learn and grow," Superintendent Dennis Coe wrote in a September 23 Facebook post. "Your support would be greatly appreciated."
"We are connecting local farmers with schools to the extent possible but this is only a drop in the bucket," Don Wambles, director of the Farmers Market Authority, told AL.com. "Otherwise, we are communicating with the Dept. of Ed almost daily. I am not aware of an effort for the State to step in."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in September that it would invest up to $1.5 billion to help schools respond to supply chain disruptions and feed students.
"American agriculture currently faces unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every stage of our food supply chain, from commodity production through processing and delivery. Farmers, ranchers and forest landowners increasingly experience the impacts of climate change as severe storms, floods, drought and wildfire events damage their operations and impact their livelihoods. We know these challenges will continue into 2022 and others may emerge."
"Through this comprehensive set of investments, USDA will take action to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever, assist producers grappling with drought and market disruptions and help school nutrition professionals obtain nutritious food for students. Tackling these challenges head-on better positions USDA to respond in the future as new challenges emerge," he said.
Information on how funds will be allocated has not yet been given to states, but a Tuesday news release said that the department was working to approve state plans to distribute the relief funds for schools meals through the Child Nutrition Emergency Operation Costs Reimbursement Programs "to help offset the costs child nutrition program operators incurred during the early months of the pandemic."