By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Cafeterias throughout the Quincy School District were suddenly short on bread products this week because of the shutdown of the district's supplier — Interstate Brands, a subsidiary of Hostess Brands Inc.
Hostess announced last week it was ceasing its operations and selling the company's assets in response to a national Bakers Union strike. That decision had a direct impact on the Quincy School District's school lunch program because Interstate was the district's sole supplier of hamburger buns, hot dog buns and sliced bread.
Jean Kinder, the district's food service director, said when the district suddenly found itself without a bread supplier this week, school officials asked other distributors to help fill the void. However, the other distributors couldn't help because of a widespread bread shortage resulting from the Hostess closure.
That's when Hy-Vee Foods came to the district's rescue. Kinder said the grocery chain, which has two stores in Quincy, made arrangements to bake all of the district's bread this week.
Kinder said the company "went above and beyond, stating they would help out no matter what and even offered to deliver the bread."
Hostess and its second largest union agreed on Monday to try to resolve their differences after a bankruptcy court judge noted that the parties hadn't gone through the critical step of private mediation.
Hostess cited a crippling strike started on Nov. 9 by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents about 30 percent of Hostess workers.
"Many people, myself included, have serious questions as to the logic behind this strike," said Judge Robert Drain, who heard the case in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York in White Plains, N.Y. "Not to have gone through that step leaves a huge question mark in this case."
The mediation talks are set to take place Tuesday, with the liquidation hearing set to resume on Wednesday if an agreement isn't reached. Jeff Freund, an attorney for the bakers union, said any guess as to how the talks will go would be "purely speculative."
In an interview following the hearing, Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn said that there is enormous financial pressure to come to an agreement with the union by the end of the day Tuesday.
He noted that it's costing Hostess about $1 million a day in payroll costs alone to stay alive, with the money mostly going toward management to unwind the company. About 18,000 workers were sent home Friday after the company shuttered its 33 plants, meaning no sales are being generated.
"We didn't think we had a runway, but the judge just created a 24-hour runway," said Rayburn, who added that even if a contract agreement is reached, it's unclear whether all Hostess plants will get up and running again.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.