Several local school districts confirm new food concerns after distributors drop them

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Hickman Mills School District is the latest in the Kansas City metro to warn families of issues it may have feeding children in the coming weeks.

Hickman Mills said one of its suppliers notified the district that it would drop the district in November. The district said it’s because the supplier is having trouble finding employees and truck drivers.

“Our prime vendor was Kohl Wholesale, and we learned on Friday that they were giving us noticed to terminate contract. They are the last of the big 3 here in Kansas City,” said Grennan Sims, Hickman Mills’s director of nutrition services.

North Kansas City, Independence, Park Hill and Liberty school districts have also been impacted by this vendor.

Districts across the state of Missouri were already scrambling to feed students after Missouri notified them this summer that schools wouldn’t receive expected orders of fruits, vegetables, meat and staples.

In a letter sent to parents, Hickman Mills said it’s working to find a new food vendor.

Sims said as long as this food crisis continues, she will leave no stone unturned to find food for her district, “so we are going to do everything in our power to make sure no child goes hungry.”

The district said it provides every student with three free meals every school day because of the number of students that already qualify for free meals. To help feed students, the Hickman Mills School District is asking for the following donations from the community:

  • Disposable cutlery (forks, spoons, napkins and to-go foam hinged containers)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hand soap
  • Individually wrapped snack items in bulk (ie: cereal and granola bars, goldfish)

Other school districts in the Kansas City area said they are also facing new issues feeding students because of the same issues.

PARK HILL

The Park Hill School District notified families Wednesday of a supply chain and staffing crisis.

In addition to the lack of food from the state of Missouri, Park Hill’s food distributor canceled its delivery last week. The distributor told Park Hill that it couldn’t guarantee future food orders would be delivered. Park Hill said it is using its food stockpile, but realizes it won’t last long. The district said it is looking for other distributors and relying on grocery stores to feed its need.

Park Hill said it is forced to revise its menus and decrease the number of options available. That means students may see changes to posted menus and fewer choices at meal times.

The district also has 19 open positions on its nutrition services staff and says that is adding to the issue.

NORTH KANSAS CITY

As of Friday, the three largest distributors that handled food for the North Kansas City School District have dropped it. The district said it is relying on a number of smaller companies to help feed its 16,000 students daily.

In a letter to parents, the district warned that the current situation is not sustainable.

Right now, the North Kansas City School District said it is working with local grocery stores and retailers such as Sam’s and Costco to get food. The district has also been in touch with Missouri leaders and national organizations in an effort to continue to feed students.

The district warned families that there will be changes for the foreseeable future, including:

  • Limited menu choices that differ significantly from published menus
  • Opportunities to purchase a la carte and extra items may be limited
  • Water will always be available for students but the district asks students to bring a water bottle to school
  • Consider sending a packed lunch with students, especially if your child has food allergies

All three districts said they realize the situation is less than ideal for families, but say they appreciate the patience and flexibility they are getting from families during this time.

LIBERTY

Liberty School District said it has continued to make substitutions and is also trying to find food from other sources.

“It’s required quick thinking on the fly and navigating how to keep going,” Dallas Ackerman, Liberty Public Schools spokesman, said.

The district has a contract with Minsky’s pizza for delivery once a week. But the district said the Liberty restaurant wanted to do more.

“Since this has all come about, in the last few weeks, they have stepped up and are providing food, pizza for our high school students five days a week,” Ackerman said.

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