EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – “I’ve never been asked ‘Do we need a refrigerated truck,'” said Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley, “We might need one.” These comments were in response to a growing issue in food and nutrition for the school system.
US Foods did not renew a food bid even after Gilmer revised the bid requests in April according to School Nutrition Director Patricia Partin who spoke on the issue during the Board of Education’s May work session this week. She said that many issues are facing Georgia schools and Gilmer is not alone in this issue. In fact, she noted over a dozen other counties are also without the bid.
Challenges of distribution centers, transportation, shortage of labor, and other issues are causing the problems that the board is facing. Partin responded to the issue saying, “No matter, guys, we will feed our students.”
Partin asserted that if she had to go out herself to find places for the schools to purchase food, she would. Partin said that she has even met with Senator Raphael Warnock’s office to discuss the issue and have further meetings with the state officials. She also noted that she has been working alongside Fannin and Pickens to share information and find a solution.
Clarifying further, Dr. Ridley said that the base of the issue is that the school system is having trouble finding a distributor to sell to them as most find it easier and more profitable to sell to businesses like restaurants. School systems closer to distribution hubs are having less issue, but for counties at a further distance, the problem becomes more severe.
One of the possible solutions involves larger orders that are ordered less often. Superintendent Ridley stated, “We’re going to be probably storing more food than we ever have.”
Another possible solution would see Gilmer purchasing a refrigerated truck and hiring a driver. As quoted, Dr. Ridley said any possible solution is being investigated at this point. He said, “For us, this is an all-hands=on=deck problem and it’s something we’re having to address.”
Solution discussions are going from simple answers like purchasing a truck to incorporating the Highway 515 counties as a single group order. The issue is not only affecting the bid renewal, but orders are coming in short as well. An issue that the nutrition department has handled and worked around as it hasn’t been a crippling issue until now.