Food shortage at Seattle schools forces some kids to buy lunch elsewhere

Sep 26, 2019, 8:28 AM

Employees and students say there is a food shortages at Seattle Public Schools. The problem is leaving some students fending for themselves.

By Deedee Sun, KIRO 7 TV

“It’s been a big issue and a lot of low-income students are not getting the opportunity to have a good hot lunch,” said Adam Race, a junior at Garfield High School.

The kitchen manager at Garfield, Rachel Kayne, said since the year started, things have been a big mess.

“Insanity. I mean we’ve never come in and had anything like this happen,” Kayne said. “It is a literally rummaging through the kitchen making what we can,” she said.

“The food didn’t get ordered,” Kayne said.

She shared photos of mostly empty shelves last week.

“Would you say there’s still a food shortage right now?” KIRO7’s Deedee Sun asked.

“Oh yeah definitely,” Kayne said. “I know some schools for a day or so, all they had was cereal to serve,” she said.

“Angry. It make me feel like they betrayed our trust, they betrayed these kids,” Kayne said.

Photos of lunches from a student news group called Melanin Monthly shows examples of the lunches. (The video was made by GHS students Corinna Singer & Simone Cielos, who were first to talk with Kayne and share her concerns.)

During lunchtime at Garfield High, hundreds of students poured out of the school.

A lot of them ended up at Ezell’s Chicken across the street.

“There wasn’t enough school lunches for everybody and they really weren’t that good or nutritious, so people started buying their own stuff,” said Javae Spears, a junior who was getting her lunch at Ezell’s.

“I’m coming here kind of out of desperation I guess,” said Race.

He said he ended up spending about $12.50 for his lunch – a lot more than he’d like to spend.

“I usually get school lunches and they’ve been ok in the past. And it works. But recently it’s been kind of just not as good. And I get there a little later and sometimes there’s not food left,” Race said.

Kayne, the kitchen manager, said that happened Wednesday.

“I ran out of pasta – I still had a couple of meatballs left, but that was it,” she said. “Tomorrow is supposed to be fish and chips. I don’t have any fish,” she said.

“You’re saying it’s a management problem?” Sun asked.

“This is, this is an administration problem,” she said.

The situation has the Classified School Employee’s Union (Local 609) so frustrated, they gave the district’s new Director of Nutrition Services – who oversees food – a vote of no confidence.

“We do not take this action lightly,” the letter said.

“Schools all over the District are no struggling to feed students because they do not have food to serve,” the letter said.

Aaron Smith is the new director and has been on the job for about eight months.

“What’s causing the problems?” Sun asked.

“It was multiple things, repairs on the freezer,” Smith said. “We also had a couple of technology errors with our ordering system. And with the new employees, including myself, understanding some of the procedures and process,” he said.

Smith said they’ve worked to fix the issues and the situation is improving, but admitted that there are still challenges to work out.

“Are there still food shortages going on?” Sun asked.

“With any school that calls us and says we’re short on a case of something – I work very closely with the warehouse to make sure we push it out to them. Then we go back and try to identify, how did this happen,” he said. “We are trying our best,” Smith said.

“The union gave you a vote of no confidence. What is your response to that?” Sun asked.

“I want them to hopefully trust the process and give me an opportunity to show them we can really make a difference,” Smith said.

Smith said it will probably take another week or two to work out the problems.

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Food shortage at Seattle schools forces some kids to buy lunch elsewhere