A principal at a Philadelphia elementary school ordered pizza for 400 students after food-services staff didn't show up, with the school district citing a staff shortage

·3 min read
  • A school in Philadelphia bought pizza for 400 students after food-services staff didn't show up.

  • The school district said it had been hit by staff shortages, but that it had delivered food the day before.

  • "National supply chain and labor shortages are impacting all areas of the hospitality industry," it said.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A principal at an elementary school in Philadelphia bought pizza for 400 students after food-services staff didn't show up.

S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School sent a letter to parents and guardians on September 23, saying that food-services staff from the School District of Philadelphia "did not report to Mitchell to serve food during breakfast or lunch" that day. 

When contacted by Insider, a spokesperson for the school district said it was short-staffed on the day, and cited the nationwide "supply chain and labor shortages."

The school district offers breakfast and lunch to all pupils for free. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that some students rely on the free meals, and that almost all students at Mitchell Elementary are considered economically disadvantaged.

Video: What kids eat for school lunch around the world

In the letter to parents and guardians, Stephanie Andrewlevich, the school's principal, said: "As soon as the stores opened, I ordered pizza for 400 students to attempt lunch service." Photos of the letter were shared on social media and by outlets including 6ABC.

In a statement shared with Insider, a spokesperson for the school district said: "National supply chain and labor shortages are impacting all areas of the hospitality industry, including food services.

"Like many school districts across the country, the School District of Philadelphia has been impacted by these challenges," the spokesperson said. 

The US is suffering from a huge labor shortage as people leave low-paying jobs for roles with better wages, benefits, and hours. As a result, schools across the US have been struggling to find enough staff, including bus drivers and teachers. Some teachers are leaving the profession because of burnout and fears of catching the coronavirus.

Andrewlevich said that some school staff, including teachers, were pulled from their roles to support the lunchroom, order pizza, and buy juice and water from stores.

By 2:15 p.m., not all students had eaten, Andrewlevich said. She added that students from grades three to eight hadn't received breakfast because of the lack of staff.

Andrewlevich added that the school district also hadn't provided food that day.

But the district spokesperson told Insider that meals for September 23 had been delivered to the school the day before, and that there was a supply of long-life meals for use in emergencies.

"However, the Food Services staff member assigned to Mitchell Elementary that day was unable to report to work and there was no one available to manage the distribution of these meals," the spokesperson said. "Because of this, the principal chose to have external food delivered to cover lunch for students at the school."

The spokesperson said that when food-services staff were unavailable to be on-site at a school, the district sends a roving employee to the school, or the school can assign a member of staff to step in. "Unfortunately, there was simply not enough staff available for this to happen at Mitchell," the district spokesperson said.

They added that a food-services staffer was on site the next day and that breakfast and lunch distribution "went smoothly."

Expanded Coverage Module: what-is-the-labor-shortage-and-how-long-will-it-last

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