Food Supply Problems in Chicago Public Schools


Cold nuggets. Expired milk. Hard tortillas. Breakfast staff buy their own cooking and cleaning supplies.

In the weeks after the reopening, parents and students at some Chicago public schools complained about stale and unappetizing food or schools running out of breakfasts for some students at local school council meetings and on social networks.

Bad school lunch is a perennial complaint, but this year some schools in the district are scrambling to provide students with a full menu as dining hall staff try to resolve global supply chain issues associated with a labor shortage.

It is not clear how many Chicago public schools are affected by supply chain issues.

In a statement, Chicago Public Schools acknowledged the problem and said the district is “committed to providing healthy, high-quality food to all students.”

“The CPS, like many other institutions, has been affected by disruptions and shortages in the national supply chain,” the district said in a statement. “The district was forced to make changes to our menus with little or no notice. We work with our supplier to track product shortages and substitutions provided for our menu. ”

In the weeks after the reopening, parents and students at some Chicago public schools complained about stale and unappetizing food or schools running out of breakfasts for some students.
Allison Shelley for American Education: Pictures of Teachers and Students in Action

While the school district said only a handful of schools reported limited food options, a dozen parents or local school council members responded to a Chalkbeat poll or spoke to a Chalkbeat reporter about the issues. lunch sessions faced by the city’s schools.

Anais Vences, an eighth grade student at George P. Swift Elementary School, said she noticed the decline in food quality with fewer options to choose from compared to previous school years.

As he took a bite of chicken nuggets at a recent lunch, “they were all stale,” the 13-year-old said.

Since the school reopened, students have been served “hard”, “stale” chicken patties or cold meals meant to be hot or hot, she said.

There have also been instances where students at the end of the lunch queue are given a meal with limited time to eat their food, Anais said.

Sometimes Anaïs and her sister often wait until they come home to eat.

Her mother, Abigail Vences, is concerned about the quantity and nutritional value of the meals served.

Vences contacted relatives who had similar experiences with school meals at three other Chicago public schools.

While she can organize lunch for her three children, Vences, who raised the issue with the neighborhood, is worried about the other children.

“I worry about other kids whose parents have no idea what’s going on,” Vences said.

The district said it was working with its nutritional support services team to “solve the problems to the best of our ability.”

Currently, Chicago Public Schools offer free breakfast and lunch to students.

Snacks, fruits, sandwiches and desserts wrapped in plastic placed on a table.

Schools had to create alternative menus based on supplies delivered or trading with other schools to provide meals.
Stacey Rupolo for Chalkbeat

Schools across the country are grappling with food shortages as the pandemic has disrupted the country’s school food system.

Nationally, food manufacturers are struggling to meet demand due to global supply chain issues. Meanwhile, distributors are struggling to deliver food to schools. Some New Jersey school systems are short-term cafeteria workers, making it difficult to prepare meals from scratch.

Inside Chicago public schools, the issue becomes a hot topic at some local school council meetings.

Last week, members of the local Steinmetz College Prep school council discussed limited and incomplete orders sending dining hall staff scrambling to provide meals for students.

Due to nationwide shortages and supply issues, schools had to create alternative menus based on the supplies delivered or swap with other schools to offer meal options for six weeks, a member said. from the local school in Steinmetz.

“Our dining room staff are supposed to provide a CPS approved lunch menu, but… a full menu item was not possible because they did not receive all of the items they order,” said the member.

A teacher said he was disturbed to see a school lunch offered to students that consisted of a stick of celery, crackers, yogurt and craisins.

Supply issues even forced the dining room staff to purchase their own cooking and cleaning supplies.

Even though the shortages appear to be diminishing, they remain a challenge, officials told attendees.

Steinmetz College Prep has contacted other schools who have reported similar issues,

“We just have to be creative and hope for the best,” a dining room manager told a Steinmeitz manager.

“It’s not just a Steinmeitz problem. This is a problem that affects our school a lot. a Steinmeitz official said.

A member of the local school council admitted that the problem would impact some students “as their only source of meals … It is a reality”.

At a recent local school board at Brentano Primary School, some parents raised concerns about changes in the quality, the type of food available and the days when the dining hall was running out of meals for the students, said Josh Levin, a representative of the local school community at the school.

School administrators recognized the problem and told parents and community members that the dining hall staff were trying to deal with the shortage of school supplies to meet expected needs, Levin said.

School officials said district officials were working to provide additional meals like snack bags to schools facing a shortage of dining facilities, Levin added.

Parents across town said students complained about the quality, taste of the meals and the limited options. Some parents have said that their child sometimes gives up eating at school.

Amid the lingering problem, parent Orzella Denton, whose eighth grade student attends Parker Community Academy, sent her daughter to school with a packed lunch.

Her daughter had previously told her mother that the food was not well cooked or “tasted bad”.

“Food should be done,” Denton said. “Apples or pears must not rot, milk must not be spoiled.”

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