District snafu leads to missed hot-lunch delivery at Oakland school

A mix-up by the Oakland Unified School District meant no hot lunches were delivered to students at Kaiser Elementary School in the North Oakland hills.

"On top of everything else that we're going through right now, they're also failing to deliver lunch to our children," said Sarah Isaacs, PTA president at the school.

John Sasaki, spokesman for the district, said, "This is clearly a mistake that we made, and we're sorry for it."

Sasaki said the food never showed up on Monday because key district staff weren't in the office this past Friday to properly schedule the delivery.

"What it came down to was, we are short-staffed in our nutritional services department," Sasaki said. "There was a miscommunication, and so for some reason, we weren't able to get that delivery of hot lunch up to the students at Kaiser."

But Sharonda Johnson, a food service staff member at Kaiser, quickly stepped in. 

"She very quickly scrambled to get pizza that she already had on hand, prepared actually for today, she got that ready for the students," Sasaki said.

The district said the problem affected only 20 kindergartners, 1st and 2nd graders, who waited 20 minutes for their pizza to heat up.

Many parents weren't impressed.

"That's 20 students too many, I mean, they're lucky there was food here for them to reheat, otherwise, what would they have done?" asked Melinda Gallagher.

Carolyn Sacramento agreed, saying, "They're already pressed for time to eat, and to play, and to get back into the class. So waiting 20 minutes, now they're missing out on other activities that they need to do afterwards."

Hot food was delivered to the school on Tuesday. Principal Dennis Guikema declined to speak on camera, but sent a message to parents saying, "I want to thank kinder, 1st, and 2nd graders for their patience through this situation.  They had to sit without food while their peers ate, an unfair outcome of a situation over which they had no control.”

The botched lunch delivery comes just a week after the Oakland school board voted to effectively close Kaiser next year and move students and staff to Sankofa, a school in North Oakland.

"It's really salt in the wound," Isaacs said. 

Kaiser survived the Oakland Hills firestorm and another closure threat years ago. 

"It really doesn't instill a lot of confidence in the district when, while we're already in pain from everything we're experiencing, then, you know, they don't provide lunch to our children," Isaacs said.

"Gallagher said, 'This to me is a slap in the face. These children should not be going hungry, especially right now when they're under the stress of their school getting closed. This is ridiculous."