“COVID taught us a lot,” school districts challenged with rising food costs

Upstate school districts are challenged with the cost of rising food prices.
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 12:11 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - First it was supply shortages, now it’s the cost of food presenting a new challenge. Despite that, school districts are still making sure thousands of students get fed.

“We didn’t know from week to week, sometimes day to day, what we were going to be able to source,” said Joe Urban, Food and Nutrition Services Director of Greenville County schools. We’re such a large district that it’s not like we can just run down to Costco and buy some food for our kids” he said.

Urban says the district’s food budget has jumped by at least 30% over the last 6 to 8 months.

“In order for us to sustain any kind of upcoming challenges, we’ve got to be very, very, very, very proactive,” said Urban.

The problem is two-fold---- supply is short and prices are high. Smaller districts like Pickens County face the same challenge.

“Chicken has been significantly higher, beef, I mean really all products but those are probably two of the biggest ‘’ said Jenaffer Stevenson the Nutrition Services Director for Pickens County Schools.

Stevenson says supply costs have jumped by 50% and their food budget increased by about 10%.

“That might not sound like a lot but when you’re feeding 1,000s of meals a day that is significant” she said.

The school menus are flexible, it depends on what they get.

“We built our menus around specific items that we really feel comfortable we’re going to have,” said Urban.

This next school year will be no different. But, they say things are better. The government has provided additional funding for food programs.

“Any kind of an obstacle that is brought our way we try to find ways to overcome it. We will always have food for our students,” said Stevenson

As the school transitions back into pre-pandemic practices, this year parents will need to sign up to receive free and reduced lunch meal benefits if needed.

To sign up for Greenville County Schools click here.

To sign up for Pickens County Schools click here.

More information on the benefits here.