Pa. Elementary School Principal Orders Pizza for 400 Students amid Food-Services Staff Shortage

Stephanie Andrewlevich, principal at S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School in Philadelphia, sent a letter to parents and guardians about the matter on Sept. 23

pepperoni pizza
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An elementary school principal bought pizza for 400 students last week, after food-services staff didn't show up to for work.

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

The letter was shared widely on social media by concerned recipients and later obtained by outlets like ABC-6 and The Philadelphia Enquirer.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, almost all students at S. Weir Mitchell are considered economically disadvantaged and rely on the school district, which offers breakfast and lunch to all pupils for free.

Andrewlevich wrote in the letter that she learned of the situation at 9 a.m. that day, after what would have been breakfast service.

To solve the situation, she "ordered pizza for 400 students" as soon as the store opened in an effort "to attempt lunch service." Various leaders and teachers at the elementary school were "pulled from their roles to support the lunchroom, order pizza, and go to the store to buy water and juice."

Sadly, not all students were fed. "Some of the pizzas arrived and were served to students," Andrewlevich wrote. "Some [had] not arrived as of 2:15 p.m. and students were not served."

She added that students from grades 3-8 also hadn't received breakfast.

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PEOPLE did not immediately hear back from Andrewlevich, but Monica Lewis — a spokesperson for the school district — told PEOPLE that the food-service staff shortage was indicative of a bigger problem.

"National supply chain and labor shortages are impacting all areas of the hospitality industry, including food services," she said in a statement. "Like many school districts across the country, the School District of Philadelphia has been impacted by these challenges."

Lewis went on to tell PEOPLE that the staff distribution worker called out sick that day, but insisted there was breakfast and lunch food on site that could have been distributed had protocols been properly followed.

"Meals designated for distribution on Sept. 23 were delivered to Mitchell Elementary School on Sept. 22. In addition to those meals, the school had a supply of shelf-stable meals that are to be used in an emergency situation," Lewis said. "However, the Food Services staff member assigned to Mitchell Elementary School was unable to report to work and there was no one available to manage the distribution of these meals."

"When Food Services staff are unavailable to be on-site at a school, the District's policy is for schools to use contingency plans, including notification to the Food Services Field Supervisor to assign a roving employee to that site for coverage and/or by assigning non-Food Services staff to step in and manage meals distribution," Lewis added. "Unfortunately, there was simply not enough staff available for this to happen at Mitchell. .... Because of this, the principal chose to have external food delivered to cover lunch for students at the school."

A food-services staffer was on site the next day, according to Lewis, to manage breakfast and lunch distribution.

"There have been no reported issues since then," Lewis told PEOPLE. "We are committed to providing nutritious meals in a safe and pleasant environment to students in all of our schools and will continue to diligently work to ensure that students receive the support they need."

Still, parents complained about the problem to ABC-6 about the lack of communication.

"When we were leaving school, they were complaining they were hungry, they didn't eat all day," parent Sherrae Jackson told ABC-6. "And I was very upset because I should have gotten a phone call."

"My son goes here and somebody's gotta stand up for something because this is not right at all," parent Octavia Clark added to the outlet. "They still didn't notify none of us, it's ridiculous. This is really sad."

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