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Northwest Missouri school districts face issues with school food supplies

A shortage of delivery drivers, warehouse workers, and food supplies is causing school districts across Missouri to make do.

Posted: Sep 8, 2021 5:45 PM
Updated: Sep 9, 2021 9:19 AM

(FAUCETT, Mo.) A shortage of delivery drivers, warehouse workers, and food supplies is causing school districts across Missouri to make do.

Here in Northwest, Missouri, at least 19 district superintendents say they are dealing with issues with food supplies and deliveries. Many say they are adjusting their menus on the fly in order to keep school meals as normal as possible.

“We’re in our first week of school, everything is going great, and then it’s like, ‘hey, our truck didn’t make it,’” said Jay Albright, superintendent for Mid-Buchanan School District. “Our kids have been super flexible because menus are changing at the drop of a hat.”

Mid-Buch. received its first full delivery truck Wednesday morning. Until this point, the staff has made supplies stretch with shopping trips to local grocery stores and limiting student lunch menus to one cold and one hot option.

Stewartsville School District is also limiting its entrees to two options. Additionally, the district had to get creative to make sure it had enough milk and juice when deliveries dwindled.

“Milk deliveries have become an issue. They’re short drivers so we’re getting two deliveries a week instead of what we’d really prefer which would be three,” said Michael Stephenson, superintendent for Stewartsville. “Fortunately we’ve had a milk cooler around in the district for probably 25-30 years that was in storage so we were able to pull it out clean it up, repair it so that gave us our extra storage for milk.”

Stewartsville and Mid-Buchanan aren’t the only districts struggling. We reached out to the 57 school districts in the northwest region. Of the district superintendents who responded, two-thirds said they were dealing with food supply issues.

Many of the superintendents we spoke to said they did not blame their suppliers.

“Opaa! had let us know in the mid-summer that shortages would be coming so we began stockpiling and making preparations. “It’s not so much of a supply issue for them. It’s more of a delivery issue.” Stephenson said.

Opaa! is one of the companies Missouri and Kansas school districts order food supplies from. The company provided a statement about its supply and delivery issues which reads in part, “Food shortages, coupled with COVID-related quarantines and a limited supply of warehouse workers and delivery truck drivers, have resulted in delivery delays, product substitutions, and other challenges. But they have NOT changed our commitment to making high-quality, nutritious breakfasts and lunches available each day at no cost to every student we serve.”

Here’s where local districts stand and what information superintendents provided:

ANDREW COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Savannah R-3
The Savannah School District acknowledged it’s a very real concern for its schools and the food service department but spokesperson Jess Gillett said the district was not interested in providing any further comment on the subject at this time.

North Andrew
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

ATCHISON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Rockport
Superintendent Ethan Sickels says the Rockport School District was dealing with some food supply challenges but felt Opaa! was doing a wonderful job at making sure students in the district were fed and fed well.

Fairfax
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Tarkio
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

BUCHANAN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Buchanan County
Superintendent Travis Dittemore said the district had only experienced a limited set of issues related to commodity deliveries. He said, “We’ve had to adjust menus a couple of times due to this but have had plenty of notice in order to do so.”

East Buchanan
Superintendent John Newell said, “We have been made aware of nationwide food shortages that may affect our menu. Our food service provider has taken steps to make sure we have enough nutritious meals daily, but sometimes have to adjust planned menu offerings based on unavailable items.”

Mid-Buchanan
Superintendent Jay Albright says, “Our food service company, Opaa!, is doing a great job of responding by "beating the pavement" to find supplies elsewhere. The immediate impact is that our food service company is now only able to offer one hot option and one cold option each day for lunch. Normally, they would be able to provide multiple hot options along with a cold option.”

St. Joseph
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

CALDWELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Braymer
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Breckenridge
Superintendent Brent Skinner said the food provider just notified the district this week that some items are in short supply.

Cowgill
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Hamilton
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Kingston
Superintendent Andrea Hieronymus said the district was not experiencing school food supply issues at this time.

Mirabile C-1
Building Administrator Linda Storey said, “We are experiencing some issues with our food supply. I believe it is mostly due to our provider getting limited shipments.” Mirabile does not use Opaa. Instead, it contracts with Graves out of Jefferson City for its bulk orders.

Storey said in addition to food supply issues, the district’s commodities through DESE have been delayed.

New York
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Polo
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

CLINTON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Lathrop
Superintendent Chris Fine said Lathrop has had to cut back from offering three meal options at lunch to just offering one choice.

Cameron
Superintendent Matt Robinson said Cameron School District has not had any food supply issues so far this year.

Clinton County
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

DAVIESS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Gallatin
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

North Daviess
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Pattonsburg
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Tri-County
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Winston
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Maysville
Superintendent Chris Heslinga said the school district is dealing with some food supply issues.

Osborn
Superintendent Derek Brady said Osborn school district is not dealing with any food issues at this time.

Stewartsville
The following message was sent out to district families on August 31: “ We are sure by this point you are aware we are experiencing a national supply issue. Given the supply issues, we have realigned our September menu, hoping we don't have to make any additional modifications. So at this point, there will be one entrée and one salad menued each day. The best way to keep up with any meal changes is through our school web app. The app can be downloaded on any apple or android device. First, search your app store for "Stewartsville C2 School" Once you have downloaded the app, click on the dining tab to stay informed. We thank you for your continued support of all things Stewartsville.”

Union Star
Superintendent Rick Calloway said Union Star is not experiencing food supply issues at this time.

GENTRY COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Albany
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

King City
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Stanberry
Superintendent Bob Heddinger said, “Our contracted food service provider has shared that they are experiencing some issues with their suppliers. While this has caused some adjustments for them I have not seen any difference in the product they are delivering for our students.”

GRUNDY COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Grundy County
Superintendent Phil Fox said Grundy County School District is not experiencing any food supply issues at this time.

Laredo
Superintendent Misty Foster said Laredo is not experiencing any food supply issues at this time.

Pleasant View
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Spickard
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Trenton
Superintendent Michael Stegman said Trenton School District is not experiencing any food supply issues at this time.

HARRISON COUNTY SCHOOLS

Cainsville
“We have certainly been one of the schools that have struggled to get food,” said Ryan Rosenbaum, superintendent for Cainsville School District. “However, I do know that the principal and I have spent a lot of time grocery shopping to try and provide food for our students.”

Melanie Chaney, Cainsville Cook, said, “ The first issue was when we received notice that the commodities would not be available for August and September. This notice forced the school to order from a wholesale company at a significant cost difference. Currently, some of the orders for September will be delivered, but not all of the products will be available, which will again cause the school to spend more money. I believe this was all due to a lack of a shipping company.

The wholesale company that we use is also having trouble getting products to fulfill orders. Some items are not being made anymore and some are being made but in different quantities. This makes it difficult for a small school like Cainsville RI because of storage.

Some of our local distributors are looking at cutting routes. This is because they can not get products and because so many of the restaurants and other businesses they deliver to have either closed or lacked business and do not order as they did previously.”

South Harrison
Superintendent Dennis Eastin said South Harrison is experiencing many of the same issues as Cainsville. South Harrison’s was notified that commodities ordered for August and September would not be available until later this fall. In addition to commodities, the district has been experiencing food supply issues. The district’s staff has been making trips to the grocery stores to the gaps.

Gillman City
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

North Harrison
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Ridgeway
Superintendent Jonnie Beavers said Ridgeway School District is experiencing food supply issues.

HOLT COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Craig
Superintendent Mike Leach said the district is experiencing some issues but they are manageable.
“I know it is a concern for our vendor, “ Leach said. “Craig being a small school, we are usually able to fill our main order with a few substitutions. For example, my cook informed me that if we want to serve turkey for Thanksgiving, then we need to order it now.”

Mound City
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

South Holt
Superintendent Bob Ottman said South Holt School District is not experiencing any food supply issues at this time.

LIVINGSTON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Chillicothe
Superintendent Dan Wiebers said Chillicothe School District is only experiencing some minor issues with food supplies at this time.

Livingston County
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

South Livingston
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

MERCER COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

North Mercer
Superintendent Dan Owens said North Mercer has experienced a few minor issues but nothing the district can’t handle. Some of the ordered items from several of the school’s vendors are not available at this time.

Princeton
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

NODAWAY COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Jefferson
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Maryville
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

West Nodaway
Superintendent Mitch Barnes said West Nodaway has experienced a delay in commodities and Sysco informed the district it could not provide some of the items ordered. He added, “However, we have used alternative suppliers to meet our needs. We have been working through Falls City Mercantile in Nebraska and they have been able to supply us.”

North Nodaway
Superintendent Chris Turpine said North Nodaway was not experiencing any food supply issues at this time.

Nodaway-Holt
Superintendent Jeff Blackford said Nodaway-Holt School District is experiencing issues and its supplier said the issue was that there was a shortage of employees and truck drivers.

South Nodaway
The District did not respond to KQ2’s request for information.

Northeast Nodaway
Superintendent Brenda Dougan said Northeast Nodaway was not experiencing any food supply issues at this time.

WORTH COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Worth County
Superintendent Chris Healy said Worth County was experiencing issues getting products or deliveries from several of its providers.

St. Joseph
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Warm and breezy conditions continued today with highs making a run for the 90s. Winds will be a bit breezy at times with gusts up to 20 mph. Slightly cooler weather will start to push into the area on Wednesday with highs in the mid 80s. Most of the day will be dry, but a few isolated showers will be possible Wednesday afternoon into the evening. Rain chances will start to ramp up on Thursday with highs in the upper 70s. Scattered rain chances will continue on Friday through the weekend as highs remain in the 70s.
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