$1.5 Million Worth Of Chicken Wings Was Allegedly Stolen

Illinois' Harvey School District 152 has received real-life lessons in financial hardship. Per WGN 9, over 80% of the district's 1,600 enrollees fall under the category of "low income." ProPublica found that between 2015 and 2016, the district led the state in the number of students receiving lunch for free or at a reduced price – a staggering 97% received assistance. Data from the local Holmes Elementary School for roughly the same period showed that 94% of kids who went there received lunch assistance. While we don't have statistics for more recent years, we suspect that every dollar of the schools' food budgets could help lessen the load on cash-strapped families and children who could face food insecurity without help.

What that budget was not intended for were chicken wings. If you look at the standards laid out for the district's free breakfast and lunch programs, you'll see an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, excluding trans fans, incorporating low-sodium options, and shifting away from deep-fried food and toward grilled and baked alternatives. But no wings.

Yet an audit revealed that the district had reportedly spent $300,000 over its allotted budget for food before the end of the school year (via The Washington Post). Upon investigating the mysterious food charges, records indicated that the district's Director of Food Services, Vera Liddell had ordered a whooping 11,000 boxes of chicken wings over a span of 19 months. They were supposedly meant to feed students.

The chicken wings may have been part of an embezzlement plot

Vera Liddell's chicken wing scandal allegedly kicked off amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, per The Washington Post. Students had to receive lessons remotely, but Harvey School District 152 still tried to ensure they had access to food. Meals were made available for pickup. According to court documents, the former food services director took this opportunity to order thousands of boxes of chicken wings without permission, among a number of other unnamed food items. Liddell apparently duped employees at Gordon Food Service, a company that had been contracted by the school district to provide food for school lunches. Citing surveillance videos, investigators claimed that once the hoards of chicken wings had been ordered, Liddell would drive to the Gordon Food Service factory to collect the items. She stands accused of embezzlement.

Depending on where you live, this might not be an unfamiliar tune. According to KFOR, last year, Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Cyndy Byrd accused an ex-Stillwater Public Schools employee of "literally taking food out of the mouths of children." Stacy Kay Hampton administrative assistant for the district's nutritional assistance program allegedly embezzled over $216,000 between 2013 and 2019. But rather than buying wings, she was accused of taking money she collected from schools. Of course, handling money directly sounds pretty straightforward. What isn't clear in Liddell's case, is what exactly someone would do with all those chicken wings.