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How disruptions in the supply chain are affecting free meal programs in Texas schools

 Students are socially distanced in the lunchroom at Jacob’s Well Elementary School in Wimberley.
Jordan Vonderhaar for the Texas Tribune
Students are socially distanced in the lunchroom at Jacob’s Well Elementary School in Wimberley.

More than 3 million students are eligible for free or reduced-cost meals in the state, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Nation wide, schools are experiencing a shortage of drivers, higher prices and canceled contracts with food service companies. Thes e problem s ar e a resu lt of di sruptio ns in the nati onal supp ly cha in , r esult ing in students rec ei ving late o r d ifferent as pla nned meals .

In a virtual roundtable hosted by the non-profit, No Kid Hungry, educators across the country talked about creative ways they are dealing with sudden supply chain issues.

One of the school administrators featured on the panel, Dimitria Barrios, said for ou tsider s it m ay not l ook li ke they are experiencing supply issues .

"Really our clients, our customers, our students, parents have not seen the struggles that we've had to go through because they don't see it," Barrios said. "Our employees don't show that because we're serving meals every day, and that's our goal."

No Kid Hungry works with school officials by providing direct funding, best practices, and overall support to make sure students are being given nutritious meals.

Lucy Coady is the director of No Kid Hungry . Coady stressed school districts have relied on the support given through the federal government during the pandemic.

Those supports include flexibility waivers allowing school districts to distribute meals on food trucks or change the types of meals they're offering kids. Coady said the recent passage of grocery benefits for food-insecure families also lifts the burden off of administrators and parents.

"This is a national disruption that we're having right now, " said Coady. "I think what is possible to get done a lot faster is to encourage Congress to give USDA the authority to continue providing these flexible waivers that are really critical to school districts."

Federal waivers are set to expire by the end of the school year.

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Got a tip? Ana Perez at aperez@kera.org. You can follow Ana on Twitter @ana_b_pez

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Ana Perez