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Ag Commissioner Pate: USDA showing ‘some flexibility’ with school food shortages

Earlier in the school year, some of Alabama’s school systems felt the crunch of the supply chain disruptions, including Dothan and Alexander City school systems.

Alabama Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Rick Pate told Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” that he had sought guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

In that, he explained the federal government was showing some flexibility in allowing for systems to deal with the disruptions.

“We’re so neck-deep in the farm-to-school program and get local food into our schools,” he said. “I was on a Zoom call about three weeks ago with [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack, and I normally don’t ask questions in those situations when I’m on there with 50 other ag commissioners. But yeah, I did ask him the question, are you aware of the situation. And I knew because I got copies of the letters from [State Superintendent of Education Eric] Mackey to USDA and others in Alabama. And what we were asking for was really flexibility. The USDA sets the criteria to feed a child, and it should be. In normal times, it is pretty strict about so many ounces of fruit and so much protein, and so much of this and that. And that’s where we really get hammered. You miss one of those things, and all of a sudden, the meal you’re serving your kids doesn’t count as a USDA-approved meal.”

“I don’t think any school system doesn’t have food,” Pate continued. “It’s that we needed some flexibility in what we’re able to do. You know, one day, it might mean we have to feed kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And we need that to count. Anyway, we’re working through that. They have shown some flexibility, I would say. Obviously, there’s some issues there.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.