Hostess closing leaves school bread supply dried up

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

The average grocery shopper is probably a little vexed that he or she can no longer stroll into the local market and pick up a box of Twinkies and a pack of Wonder kaiser rolls, but try to imagine how Itawamba County School District Food Service Director Kenny Coker feels.

The recent shuttering of wholesale baker and distributor Hostess Brands, from which the Itawamba County School District purchased a chunk of its bread products, has left local lunchrooms high and dry.

Last week, Coker said Hostess sent notification that area lunchrooms would no longer be receiving bread shipments. Previously, they received two a week.

Products purchased from Hostess Brands included loaf bread, Texas toast and kaiser rolls.

According to Coker, the county is currently without a steady supply of any of these products.

“It’s not like I can just walk into a store and buy 81 loaves of bread,” Coker said.

It’s not just a matter of skimping on the bread, either. School lunchrooms must meet strict federally-mandated nutritional guidelines, including whole-grain items.

So, how is the school district managing without these mealtime cornerstones?

“The best we can,” Coker said, adding that Fulton Walmart and Food Giant are currently working with the school district to supply enough bread products for the time being until a new supplier can be found.

Of course, Itawamba County’s schools aren’t alone in this problem; according to information recently released by the Mississippi Department of Education, six out of the state’s seven regions have been affected by the late November shuttering of Hostess Brands and all its related subsets, most notably Wonder Bread products.

Just days after the announcement that Hostess Brands was finished, store shelves were emptied of their products. The school district continued to receive shipments of bread up until the beginning of last week.

After that, nothing.

“All of that has dried completely up,” Coker said.

Few things are worse than dried up bread.

adam.armour@journalinc.com