District provides complimentary breakfast, lunch to community members, students amidst school closures

Meals delivered at drive by stations, no ID required

By Nika Bondar and Shruti Magesh

During the school closures as a result of COVID-19 (coronavirus), the district will continue to provide complimentary meals for students and community members, according to an email from FUHSD. 

The meals will be available Monday to Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. They will be bagged or boxed and handed to families as they drive by stations designated for the food handouts. Each box will contain breakfast and lunch, and will be offered at all five district schools in addition to a satellite location at Fair Oaks Park, according to an email from FUHSD.

Photo by Nika Bondar
Food pickup happens in the horseshoe, and IDs are not required to receive a meal. Administration asks that families do not linger on campus to eat the food, and that they simply grab the meals and go.

“Food pick up is happening daily … in the horseshoe for anyone under the age of 18,” Principal Greg Giglio said in an email. “We are not checking IDs or asking questions. We ask that you grab and go, do not linger on campus.”

HHS’s designated drive by station is located at the end of the horseshoe, where school food service manager Terri Forston and her four colleagues hand out two plastic bags — one for lunch and one for brunch — to every car that stops by. 

District Food Services Manager Divya Puri said plans for meal distribution were created during the staff learning day, and she brainstormed with other food service directors in the area about the logistics surrounding the plan to distribute food. 

“So typically when a scenario like this happens, especially the current circumstance where it’s a disaster or emergency, school food service works as an emergency or essential service,” Puri said. 

Puri said there must be orders placed for the food to be delivered, and all the districts are scrambling to place orders for the food. If the food is unable to to be delivered, they may have to halt distribution. 

“They’ll give us pre-baked muffins or muffin batter or cookie batter or part baked bagels where we can bake them ourselves,” Puri said. “So we typically base it on normal usage … and place orders to get those items delivered to our school. What we’re currently dealing with is not our usual use, it’s actually higher than what we normally feed.” 

Funding for the meal distribution and food deliveries is from the district’s own funding, but they are hoping the California Department of Education will provide reimbursement for the money spent, Puri said.

Forston said the meals are prepared in the morning in the kitchen like any other meal, and on the first day of distribution, about 20 meals were passed out in the first half hour. 

Photo by Nika Bondar
School Food Service Manager Terri Fortson works daily with her four colleagues to assemble and deliver the free lunches. “I can’t do it without these ladies, they’re my team,” Forston said.

“We will make sure there’s enough lunches for everybody … [and] as we get low [on meals] we will go back to the kitchen and produce more,” Forston said. “Everyone will get fed, [and] we’ll make sure of that.”

Puri said the food distribution service is expanding, and they passed out 1,500 meals throughout the district on March 18. 

“We’re just trying our best to meet the needs of the community. But I think with the current shutdown [and] the shelter in place, this may keep growing,” Puri said. “I know my neighboring districts, Cupertino and Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, are also serving 800,000 meals per day.”

Puri said options for breakfast include a bagel with cream cheese, a muffin or some cereal with milk, and that lunch will typically consist of a PB&J or a deli sandwich. 

Fortson said the staff will try its best to make the lunches different each day.

“We’re using our resources to make it interesting,” Fortson said, “[but] we’re depending on the delivery as well because everyone’s at a standstill, so we’re just trying to use what we have so it’ll be a little different every day.”

The food distribution remains safe as students and families are not coming onto campus to eat the food, and there is minimal contact between the staff and families. In addition, the staff members are typically rotating in 20 minute shifts during food distribution so contact is further minimized, Puri said. 

The district’s goal in passing out the meals revolves around making sure every student remains fed especially in a time of panic and uncertainty, Fortson said. 

Photo by Nika Bondar
Options for breakfast include a bagel with cream cheese, a muffin or some cereal with milk, while lunch will typically consist of a PB&J or deli sandwich, district food services manager Divya Puri said.

“All children need to eat, [and] as a community we come together to make sure that all students eat whether they come to school here or not,” Fortson said.  “Right now people are really scared… so we [want to] make sure that everyone has some kind of meal.”

Fortson said the time commitment for the staff to create the meals is around the same as the usual work day and they are getting paid accordingly.

Puri added that all staff members are being compensated, including staff that is unable to make it to work.

“Everybody’s getting paid [including] staff who [are] dealing with an older grandparent [or]  cannot come to work because they don’t want to expose themselves in this kind of scenario,” Puri said. 

Puri said the district’s effort to provide meals has been well received, and she hopes to continue distributing meals throughout the remainder of the school shutdowns. 

“I have gotten really good feedback and positive community support [and] people wanting to help,” Puri said. “This is something that we were going … above and beyond [to do] … trying to make sure no [one] goes hungry. No community member, nobody under 18 is refused.”