Some relief is in sight for struggling school foodservice operators coping with a stressed supply chain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A new waiver issued by the USDA this week prevents school meal programs from being financially penalized if supply chain shortages prevent them from meeting certain regulatory requirements for school meals.
In June, School Nutrition Association alerted USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to the challenges school nutrition programs were facing due to continued supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a nationwide survey of SNA members, 97% indicated supply chain as a worry going into the 2021-22 school year. Canceled orders, shortages, product substitutions, price increases, delayed and canceled deliveries have been widely reported and shared on social media.
Responding to these concerns, the USDA is waiving requirements for States to withhold reimbursements from schools unable to meet certain meal pattern and record keeping requirements due to these supply chain disruptions. While schools, manufacturers, distributors and USDA are continuing to work together to address the disruptions in food and supplies, the waiver brings welcome relief for school nutrition programs struggling to remain compliant.