EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. — “I’ve never been asked, ‘Do we need a refrigerated truck,'” Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley said, “We might need one.” These comments were in response to a growing food and nutrition problem for the school system.
US Foods did not renew a food bid even after Gilmer revised bid requests in April, according to school nutrition director Patricia Partin, who spoke out on the matter at the board’s work session. May school this week. She said there are many problems in schools in Georgia and Gilmer is not the only one facing this problem. In fact, she noted that more than a dozen other counties are also without a bid.
The challenges of distribution centers, transportation, labor shortages and other issues are at the root of the issues facing the council. Partin responded to the issue by saying, “Never mind, guys, we’ll feed our students.”
Partin claimed that if she had to go out herself to find places where schools could buy food, she would. Partin said she even met with Sen. Raphael Warnock’s office to discuss the matter and have further meetings with state officials. She also noted that she was working alongside Fannin and Pickens to share information and find a solution.
Further clarifying, Dr Ridley said the root of the problem is that the school system is struggling to find a distributor to sell to, as most find it easier and more profitable to sell to businesses like restaurants. School systems closer to distribution centers have fewer problems, but for counties farther away, the problem becomes more severe.
One possible solution involves larger orders that are ordered less often. Superintendent Ridley said: “We’re probably going to stockpile more food than ever before.”
Another possible solution would be for Gilmer to buy a refrigerated truck and hire a driver. As quoted, Dr Ridley said any possible solution is under consideration at this stage. He said: “For us this is a widespread problem and it’s something we need to address.”
Solution discussions range from simple answers like buying a truck to integrating Highway 515 counties into one bulk order. The problem not only affects supply renewal, but also insufficient orders. A problem that the nutrition department has dealt with and circumvented as it has not been a crippling problem so far.