California schools are closed, but meals for students keep going

/ 09:59 AM April 09, 2020

Food recipients maintain social distancing while lining up to get their schoolchildren’s five-days’ worth of nutritious meals for the week, at James Logan High School pick-up center. INQUIRER/Jun Nucum

UNION CITY, California — School may be out for now to avoid the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 virus, but the state’s school districts have remained active by offering meals for school-age children of locked in constituents.

One such school district, the New Haven Unified (NHUSD) in Union City, California, has a food distribution program at Alvarado Elementary School and James Logan High School dubbed Grab and Go, which it intends to continue for as long as classes are suspended

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All that residents have to do is to walk up or drive to a regular meal pick-up area in the two schools to pick up five days’ worth of meals for their school-age children.

Food pick-ups are scheduled every Monday and Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

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Annette Villanueva Heldman, NHUSD chief business officer and program head explained that Grab and Go is mainly for students and families who rely on these nutritious meals daily but may not have the ability to provide them.

New Haven Unified School District Chief Business Officer and program head Annette Villanueva-Heldman said that the Grab and Go food services program hopes to ensure that their students are continuing to learn, are fed, safe and healthy by sheltering in place. INQUIRER/Jun Nucum

The only Filipina to hold an executive position at NHUSD, Villanueva-Heldman added that food services program is meant to ensure that students are continuing to learn at home, and are fed, safe and healthy while sheltering in place.

Villanueva-Heldman said the regular school food program normally caters to 45% of the district’s student population who are eligible for free and reduced meal prices. Given the present shelter at home state directive, many of the students’ parents lost their job and find it harder to provide for family needs.

“By federal guidelines we have to serve nutritious meals that include milk, fresh vegetables and fruits and also hot meals. All of it is fully cooked, they can take five-days’ worth of it for every child that they have. They can take them home and store the same,” Villanueva-Heldman explained.

James Logan High School Principal Abhi Brar shared that majority of the funding for the project comes from the State of California and some comes from the federal government.

“California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order saying that school districts should not worry about their funding so we can continue to pay our employees, continue essential services as long as we are providing food for our community and continue on for remote learning for our students,” Brar revealed.

James Logan High School Principal Abhi Brar is glad that the program has been received positively as many parents have come out to avail of the meals prepared for their schoolchildren. INQUIRER/Jun Nucum

Brar observed that the program has been received positively as many have availed of the meals. This shows that people regard school as the most safe, reliant and consistent place that provides an essential support.

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“What is important is for all of us to be safe and healthy so that the more that the community can do the less we are overwhelming our health care system. We are not helping the spread of this virus in any way we can. That is important,” Brar emphasized.

As of April 1, the Grab and Go program that started March 16 has distributed over 13,400 meals, although Villanueva-Heldman observed that it was slow during the first week of the program but picked up a lot after a change in schedule.

NHUSD has a total of 11,281 students 20% of whom are Filipino. Filipino teachers and counselors account for about 10% of the total 580 teachers while may of the 50 school administrators are also Filipino.

“It feels great doing this. I am glad that the community saw the announcement and they were here at nine o’clock. We have not seen anything like this before. This truly is unprecedented. I am so proud of NHUSD with all the teachers, classified employees and everyone doing their part to continue to provide for our families. I am glad to be a part of it and what we have done under the circumstances,” beams Villanueva-Heldman.

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TAGS: California food program for school children, Grab and Go food program, New Haven Unified School District (NHUSD), pandemic food support, school food distribution
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