REPORT: The Supply Chain Crisis Comes for Schools

Aerial View of Containers
Tom Fisk, Pexels

Stores had and are still having trouble keeping products on the shelves but some sectors of life have seemingly gone unaffected. Possibly the best example is education, but this will soon change.

While the coronavirus pandemic has altered the necessities of students, rudimentary school supplies like writing utensils, folders, and notebooks remain essential items for learning. Moreover, schooling needs go beyond the classroom with items like clothes, which supply issues have plagued since March 2020. 

The implications have begun to interfere with some schools’ cafeterias. Between staffing and issues with food distributors, schools have faced a myriad of problems as children look to the lunchroom for their weekday breakfast and lunch. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture extended universal free lunch through the 2021-2022 school year for K-12 students. Consequently, it is fair to assume that students who may have packed their lunch from home under regular circumstances may partake in a secondary lunch.

In Gaston County, North Carolina, portion sizes had to be reduced dramatically as parents of middle school students reported children were receiving a small serving of macaroni and cheese and a roll while high school students were given four chicken nuggets and a roll. The school system did not notify parents about these changes.

This occurrence is sadly not an isolated incident. In Alabama, students are going unfed according to Rep. Mike Rogers as schools scurry to local grocery stores and multiple vendors to fulfill orders. Nonetheless, substitutions and stopgap measures have become commonplace.

Looking ahead, the logistics of distribution have a grim outlook. In fact, the issue is likely to worsen. According to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the conundrum will persist until the middle or end of 2022. However, some shipping experts have said that this outlook is optimistic as problems could easily last into 2023. Either way, this means disruptions for back-to-school shopping next year.

Notwithstanding possible events such as cargo accidents, accelerated inflation, and even a full-on recession, parents should already expect increased difficulties in finding school supplies for students of all ages whether it be in concern to the spring semester of 2022 or the 2022-2023 school year.

Perhaps one of the greatest fears of modern learning comes with a shortage of computer chips and semiconductors. Over 150 industries, from the automotive giants to refrigerators, have already felt the ramifications. Concerning education, computers have attained everyday usage within schools, especially after the extensive involuntary adoption of virtual learning. Reliance on one-to-one computing and cloud-based systems such as Google Drive and Microsoft Office virtually require students of all ages to have access to newer technology, thus adding to this global problem.

Whether it be the traditional pens and pencils or the latest laptop, students need supplies in the coming months and years for their studies. But what can parents do to make sure their children are ready for the ever-anticipated first day of class next year? Despite the fact it seems schools just returned, it is best to make purchases now or as soon as possible for next year as school supplies will undoubtedly become scarce in the coming months.

Daniel Elmore
Daniel Elmore is the Data & Analytics Coordinator at the Chalkboard Review.

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