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Supply chain shortages hit Central Texas school district, nearly ruin special tradition

Cafeteria staff fought for students’ Thanksgiving meal at Copperas Cove ISD
Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 3:52 AM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The supply chain shortages nationwide are now impacting Central Texas schools and put at least one district’s Thanksgiving tradition in serious jeopardy.

Copperas Cove ISD nearly didn’t get to provide students with their special Thanksgiving feast this year after not one, but two turkey deliveries got cancelled.

“I think all of us, over the last 18 months, have experienced shortages in the supply chain, and it’s no different for the school districts,” said Wendy Sledd, Director of Communications for the Copperas Cove Independent School District.
“Despite having two vendors, USDA, which is usually very dependable, they cited delivery issues, they had them (the turkeys) but couldn’t get them to us, and then our second vendor, they also backed out.”

Child Nutrition Director Melissa Bryan says this year has been trying due to shortages and delivery issues.

“There is not a day that goes by that we don’t have something not delivered or a letter from a company discontinuing a product that we have been using and purchasing from them for years,” said Bryan. “I normally order all my turkeys in December of the previous year from USDA. I had placed my order and was expecting our normal delivery. Seeing the trends in shortages, I also ordered from a different vendor just to make sure we had some turkey for our kiddos. Both of those orders got cut and dropped for delivery and production issues. That left me scrambling trying to figure out my next step.”

While they were in quite a pickle, cafeteria staff refused to give up and started making calls.

“We really do our best to care of the whole child, and that means not just when they’re in the classroom but making sure that their needs are met, and part of that means letting them know they’re celebrated,” said Sledd. “It’s very important for us to make sure those kids know they’re celebrated, and our Child Nutrition Department was not going to let them down.”

While some districts facing similar situations decided to give up the turkey meal altogether, Sledd says that wasn’t acceptable for them.

Staff eventually found 1,200 lbs. of turkey at a plant within the state, however, the birds were raw and frozen.

It took an extra 85 hours for staff to cook and prepare everything themselves.

“The dressing, the rolls, the mashed potatoes, you name it, was all made from scratch,” said Sledd. ”I think our cafeteria staff are kind of the unsung heroes, the school district was happy to pay for those hours, it gave them some additional Christmas spending money.”

Sledd estimates more than 75 percent of the district’s 8,300 students are food insecure.

“Our child nutrition department was determined to make sure our kids had their traditional Thanksgiving feast because, for many of these students, this may be the only Thanksgiving meal that they have,” said Sledd.

Before they left for Thanksgiving break, on Wednesday students got to take part in the holiday ritual the district’s been providing for decades.

“I think one of the great things about ensuring that Thanksgiving feast occurred was a sense of normalcy,” said Sledd. “For kids that attend CCISD, they expect and they look forward to that Thanksgiving meal every year, and in a time when the last 18 months have been anything but normal, this provided a sense of normalcy in their life.”

Normalcy--something else to be especially thankful for this Thanksgiving.

“We wanted to let our students know that we are thankful for them, and goodness knows we are certainly thankful for our cafeteria staff that worked to make sure that, despite all the obstacles, our children were going to have a Thanksgiving feast at CCISD,” said Sledd.

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