Food in the Time of Coronavirus

Sometimes things are brought to my attention here at Barker’s View HQ that seem so preposterous – so utterly enraging – that they defy credibility.

But when it comes to the utter absurdity that is Volusia County Schools, nothing surprises me anymore. . .

Earlier this week, I learned through a concerned citizen of yet another shocking gaffe by senior officials in the Ivory Tower of Power at Volusia County Schools – one which, had it not been formally challenged by Holly Hill city officials – may well have resulted in many underprivileged children going hungry during the extended school shutdown.

Beginning next week, Volusia County Schools will provide free breakfast and lunch for displaced students during the school closure period.  The meals will be delivered in drive-thru style (walkers and bicyclists included) from 10:00am to 12:30pm in the parent pick-up line at designated schools.

In my view, that’s a noble effort – one that will provide nourishment to many under-served children who might otherwise go without a nutritious meal.

So, image my outrage when I learned Holly Hill School – where some 94% of the Kindergarten through 8th grade students are on some form of assistance – was intentionally omitted from the meal program because, as district officials explained, “When we looked at HH, the logistics didn’t work to keep the integrity of the plan in place to distribute the food.”

In turn, some families were told they should slog their way to Ormond Beach to reach a food distribution point.

My God.

I also learned that Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte – speaking on behalf of the City Commission – fought tooth-and-nail for basic fairness, sending a scathing email to the district’s hapless “Chief Operating Officer,” Greg Akin, voicing the community’s well-placed indignation.

Upon learning that disadvantaged children in Holly Hill would be denied a meal unless they could navigate their way to Ormond Beach – city officials apparently reached out to a local church who offered to establish a food distribution point near the school.

In turn, a local veterans organization came forward and offered “several thousand” rations for the Holly Hill student’s who were so callously disregarded by Volusia County Schools.

It doesn’t surprise me that, when the chips were down, the good people of Holly Hill – an incredibly tight-knit community who looks out for those most vulnerable – came together to see that poor children were given the same benefit as those in more affluent communities.

Upon learning of the situation, I’m told Volusia County teacher and President of Volusia United Educators Elizabeth Albert (who is also a former Holly Hill City Commissioner) reached out to Superintendent Scotty Fritz on behalf of area families with children who would be left hungry because “the logistics didn’t work.”

In his email to the district, Mr. Forte wrote:

“I and the city commission are very upset that Holly Hill students were not taken into consideration for this plan.  Our children walk and bike to school every day.  All year long we listen to how poor these kids are and when trouble strikes, they are told to go to Ormond Beach.”

 If the city has to take up where the school board is failing, I will do my best to make up for ignoring these needy children and providing them with gross military food.  I would like to know what the details are that the logistics cannot work to keep the integrity of the plan in place to distribute food.

To say we are upset is actually an understatement, frankly, as the saying goes, I’m pissed off!”

Just one more reason I believe Joe Forte is the best City Manager in the business. . .

Ultimately, district officials and School Board members rightly changed tack and have now agreed to provide complimentary meals at Holly Hill School to ensure children in that community receive the same nourishment as those in surrounding cities.

(Find the updated distribution list here: https://tinyurl.com/w77dncx )

How is it possible this Circus of the Absurd can continue?

In my view, institutionalized administrative ineptitude is one thing – but the health and welfare of our children is quite another – with tales of “filthy” classrooms – and now this debacle, one that would have denied sustenance to a socioeconomically challenged school.

Trust me – had Mr. Forte and the elected officials not fought valiantly on behalf of their discarded constituents – we would have seen the heartless juxtaposition of poor children in Holly Hill eating donated military rations, while those in Ormond Beach, Port Orange and elsewhere noshed on freshly prepared takeout. . .

That’s wrong.

All kudos to Mr. Forte, the Holly Hill City Commission and VUE President Albert for their brave stand against this cruel unfairness.

Thank you for fighting for deserving families – your efforts on behalf of those less fortunate epitomize the community’s fitting motto – “The City with a Heart!”

6 thoughts on “Food in the Time of Coronavirus

  1. All would be amazed and upset to learn what these top tiered school admin. are being paid. Additionally, teachers and staff work 9 months out of the year. They get every possible holiday off. This has to stop.

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  2. Your right, Mr Barker, Joe Forte is a fighter in the best of ways!!! Well done Joe! When logistics don’t work, you have to MAKE them work! Feeding hungry kids isn’t a logistics problem, its a fundamental HUMAN problem, especially now! Thanks for sharing stories we might not otherwise hear about.

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  3. Joe Forte is the best! I loved working with him when he was at the county and happy he came back to Volusia after a stint in Seminole. He is terrific. And of course he would fight for his kids. I would expect nothing less from this no nonsense but compassionate soul.

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