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Struggling to keep students fed

Worker shortages all along the school food supply chain are causing problems for at least one district in Luzerne County.

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, Pa. — When it's time to clean up the cafeteria, staff members at Hanover Area Junior-Senior High School say they know they've helped students get one step closer to success in the classroom.

"We are trying to make it as easy as possible and understand that the basic needs have to be met before we come in and expect them to be who they're supposed to be in a classroom," said Hanover Area Superintendent Nathan Barrett.

But Barrett says feeding students right now is a daily struggle.

"We are making do with what we have, whether it's running to the grocery store and grabbing paper plates, utensils, buns, whatever it might be, just to make two ends meet for our students," he added.

Barrett tells Newswatch 16 that a worker shortage in the school food supply chain is contributing to the troubles.

"From start to finish, there are shortages, so it's people who are manufacturing the goods that we need to truck drivers, it's people unloading the trucks, and then I don't have workers in the cafeteria. We are on a very, very tight team over there, and they're getting tired," he explained.

Since the supply chain isn't reliable for some packaged items or produce for things like salad, the staff have to make it themselves, but that requires a lot more work from workers the school doesn't have.

"We're only in October, as you said in the beginning, and they're beat because they're doing the job of what was once double the team," added Barrett. "Every day, we have to strategize to piece together the day to feed our students."

Barrett says at Tuesday's school board meeting, he's going to ask for a wage increase for cafeteria staff workers to attract more applicants. Other than that, he's at a loss of what to do to solve the problem until people go back to work across the supply chain.