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Now On The Menu At Closed Schools: Drive-Thru Lunches

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FONTANA, Calif. — There have been no hugs, handshakes or high-fives Tuesday morning at Juniper Elementary School, the place the coed drop-off line had remodeled into a faculty lunch drive-thru.

“Hi! How many?” requested college cafeteria supervisor Irene Huerta, 54, as she smiled and leaned towards an open automobile window.

Then she handed over three sizzling, bagged lunches (taquitos and greens) and a breakfast bundle for the subsequent morning (muffins), every meal supplemented with fruit and milk.

“Thank you!” three car-bound children yelled as their chauffeurs — haggard dad and mom — rolled out of the car parking zone and again residence, a spot that for a lot of households has grow to be a schoolhouse, day care heart and holding pen since COVID-19 pressured faculties to shut.

In lower than two hours, Huerta and her colleagues handed meals to 329 kids on this, the second day of their drive-thru service. By the tip of the day Thursday, after 4 days of distributing meals, the district had given out 6,847 breakfast and lunch packages, the district mentioned.

Irene Huerta runs the cafeteria at Juniper Elementary School in Fontana, California.(Anna Almendrala/KHN)

Huerta is in control of the varsity’s grab-and-go meal program, which supplies each youngster below 18 a free lunch and breakfast throughout college closures associated to COVID-19. (Anna Almendrala/KHN)

About 99% of California faculties have shuttered to attempt to stem the unfold of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said. Most states have determined to shut all of their public faculties.

About 6.1 million children in California — amongst at least 44 million nationwide — are shut out of their school rooms. That means probably the most susceptible college students might lose the one place they depend on for a nutritious meal.

The uncertainty might final for months as a result of faculties may very well be closed the remainder of the tutorial yr, Newsom mentioned.

In California, practically 60% of children qualify without cost or reduced-price meals from their faculties, in response to the state Department of Education.

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“Food banks know firsthand that kids are hungriest when schools are closed, and that’s typically in the summer or during breaks,” mentioned Andrew Cheyne, director of presidency affairs on the California Association of Food Banks.

It’s yet another influence of the virus that has sickened at least 675 Californians and led to greater than 15 deaths. Nationwide, there have been at least 14,250 cases and more than 200 deaths.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving faculties affected by COVID-19 closures more flexibility to continue providing meals with out having to satisfy the federal requirement that college students eat on-site. So far, California faculties have submitted purposes for greater than Three,100 emergency lunch websites to the state Department of Education, mentioned division spokesperson Jonathan Mendick.

At Fontana Unified School District in San Bernardino County, 84% of its 36,300 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Because of the excessive stage of want within the district, practically all of its 44 faculties permit all college students to eat without cost.

Ten faculties are providing the grab-and-go applications from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays. The cafeteria and district staff staffing the drive-thrus obtain their common wages.

Dawn Reyes picks up a meal at Golden Springs Elementary School in Diamond Bar, California, for her 6-year-old daughter, Grace. Reyes’ husband is a server in a restaurant, and his hours have dropped sharply.(Anna Almendrala/KHN)

Cafeteria staff on the Juniper Elementary drive-thru Tuesday wore hairnets, aprons and gloves. Huerta, who was handing the meals to households of their vehicles, was not sporting these things.

Marvella Melendez, 57, lives along with her husband and three of her grandchildren across the nook from Juniper Elementary, whereas her daughter, son-in-law and their three kids stay within the guesthouse. She arrived Tuesday morning on foot, carrying an insulated purchasing bag to choose up lunch and breakfast for her six grandchildren.

Melendez was hesitant to get meals the primary day they have been obtainable, insisting to her grandkids that they’d sufficient at residence and may depart the meals for needier college students. But, she mentioned, the meals is reassuring and “means something to them.”

“They want to enjoy the food from the cafeteria, and they want to enjoy the sensation that they’re making a line,” Melendez mentioned.

The meals additionally helps the household lower your expenses at a time after they’re shedding revenue, she mentioned.

This helps us know that my children are going to be fed at this time.

Andrea Carrillo, an insurance coverage auditor who works from residence, who mentioned her household had simply run out of groceries

Melendez’s husband, a gardener, works open air and doesn’t enter folks’s properties, so his work hasn’t been affected by the coronavirus, she mentioned. But Melendez, who drives for Uber on weekends for extra cash, has seen an enormous drop in passengers since March 14. On a typical day, she logs about 25 rides, netting her $80 to $120, she mentioned. But that weekend, she picked up solely 4 journeys a day, she mentioned.

“Everybody’s scared to go out,” she mentioned.

The virus and the following shutdowns have additionally spurred some folks to hoard, resulting in empty grocery store cabinets and stress for households attempting to feed their children.

Leaders on the Pomona Unified School District in east Los Angeles County thought of this when planning their grab-and-go service, mentioned Lilia Fuentes, assistant superintendent.

The district has about 23,000 students and runs a free cafeteria program. It began its drive-thru service Tuesday and handed out four,264 breakfast and lunch packages within the first three days, the district mentioned.

“We needed to provide food, especially in light of what’s going on with food shortages in markets,” Fuentes mentioned. “That was the No. 1, high-priority discussion for us.”

Andrea Carrillo visits the varsity lunch drive-thru along with her three kids, ages 12, Eight and 6, at Golden Springs Elementary School in Diamond Bar, California.(Anna Almendrala/KHN)

At Golden Springs Elementary, a Pomona Unified college in Diamond Bar, Andrea Carrillo pulled up for bagged lunches Tuesday along with her three kids, ages 12, Eight and 6. Carrillo, 41, an insurance coverage auditor who works from residence, mentioned her household had simply run out of groceries.

“This helps us know that my kids are going to be fed today,” Carrillo mentioned.

Dawn Reyes, 48, pulled up for meals for her 6-year-old daughter, Grace. Reyes mentioned she felt “panicked” when she first heard information of the varsity shutdown and rushed to organize to home-school Grace along with caring for her Three-year-old daughter.

Reyes is a housewife, and her household depends totally on her husband’s revenue as a server in a restaurant. Since final week, she mentioned, his hours have dropped sharply.

“We do have savings, but you know, that will eventually get depleted,” she mentioned.

Nearby supermarkets not often have milk, which her kids drink daily. But she additionally appreciates the varsity drive-thru as a result of it provides some construction to her kids’s morning.

“It’s become part of our schooling routine,” Reyes mentioned Thursday morning, after visiting the drive-thru three days straight. “It’s convenient, gets us a ride in the car, and it makes it easy for me not having to think about breakfast and lunch.”

Use Our Content This story will be republished without cost (details).

Anna Almendrala: aalmendrala@kff.org”>aalmendrala@kff.org, @annaalmendrala

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