Tucson, AZ

Food Shortages Hitting Local Schools Hard

Greyson F

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Local schools are running out of food.MD Duran/Unsplash

Food shortages have been hitting restaurants and grocery stores throughout greater Tucson, with supply problems becoming more and more prevalent. You may have noticed certain foods no longer available at your favorite grocery store, or at the very least, difficult to obtain. Chicken wings, for example, have become increasingly hard to locate, and even major restaurants specializing in chicken wings have started to offer other parts of the bird (such as thighs) instead.

With no immediate end in sight, the food shortage situation has not only spread to restaurants here in Tucson but to the local school districts as well.

The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) has a total enrollment of nearly 48,000 students spread over 89 schools here in metro Tucson. South Tucson, Drexel Heights, Tucson, Valencia West, as well as portions of Catalina Foothills, Tanque Verde, and Tucson Estates make up the school district. On average, TUSD serves 30,000 meals on a given day. Some of these meals are purchased by families, but a large portion of the meals are given to students whose families are unable to provide complete meals. For some, the food they receive while at school are the only complete meals they eat during the week. 

And now, with the food supply shortage, even those meals are at risk. 

Proteins like beef and chicken are staple ingredients in school lunches and these items are becoming difficult to come by. But it’s not just proteins. It’s hamburger buns and other staples that are generally inexpensive and plentiful. 

The school district does have a centralized warehouse with several months worth of backup food. Some of the backup canned food has started to become integrated into everyday food in order to help stretch out what is arriving and make it last as long as possible. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has dedicated itself to providing over a billion dollars to help schools around the country, but even with this money, if there’s no food available in the supply chain, no amount of money will help. 

If the situation at the Tucson Unified School District sounds bleak, smaller districts tucked into the city are even worse off. Sunnyside Unified School District has said it’s a daily problem, while other districts are having trouble finding utensils and dishes for food services. 

If you are interested in lending a hand and helping out, you can contact the school either your child attends or one you’d like to help out and ask what you might be able to do to assist. Each school is different, but assistance in securing non-perishable foods, especially as the holiday season approaches, will be much appreciated. 

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