Local districts partner to distribute free meals

Free lunch
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos School District registrar Bridget Stolorz distributes free meals at Klein Park.

With schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, local districts are working together to continue providing meals for students who might not otherwise have access to nutritious food.

Three local school districts – the Mountain View Whisman School District, Los Altos School District and Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District – have teamed up to provide free breakfast and lunch each weekday.

Staff at Mountain View Whisman are preparing the meals for all three districts. The bags include a lunch, plus breakfast for the next day.

“It’s going to be distracting to be doing schoolwork from home. Let’s take one of those burdens off and make sure they still have food access,” said Steve Taglio, a member of the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees.

Taglio was at Klein Park Friday, distributing meals to children and parents who stopped by. Dulce Hautreux visited with her son, who is in kindergarten. Hautreux said it’s a relief that the district is continuing to provide meals, especially given how many people are out of work. Although she still has her job at Safeway, her husband was laid off from his job at a restaurant.

“I’m glad that they can be here for us,” Hautreux said.

Approximately 200 students in the Los Altos School District receive free or reduced-price lunch when school is in session, Superintendent Jeff Baier said. The district is now distributing meals at both Klein Park and Egan Junior High School.

“We have a not insignificant number of kids in our school district who rely upon us for a solid meal every day,” Baier said. “In this time where there is greater uncertainty, perhaps parents losing jobs, … it becomes even more vital.”

Around 80-90 breakfasts and lunches are being handed out at Klein Park each day, Taglio estimated, with another 40 or so distributed at Egan. Those numbers have been increasing over time, as more families learn about the program.

At a distribution site at Gabriel Mistral Elementary School, Mountain View Whisman is serving approximately 1,000 breakfasts and 1,000 lunches each day to students from both Mountain View Whisman and MVLA. Some days they use up all the meals and prepare more, said Debbie Austin, Mountain View Whisman’s director of food and nutrition services.

“We have a lot of families in Mountain View that live on the edge and they have to make a choice between paying their rent or providing food for the children,” she said. “And children need their food – they can’t learn without it, and they become ill without proper nutrition.”

All three districts are providing meals for anyone under age 18. No ID is required.

Safety measures

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, staff are taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Staff are all checking their temperatures as they enter the kitchen, Austin said, and wearing masks and gloves as they prepare the food. The kitchen is also being thoroughly sanitized every day.

Similarly, Baier said Los Altos School District staff are taking their temperatures each day and wearing gloves before distributing meals.

At Gabriel Mistral a drive-thru set up is being used, with staff putting meals in the trunks of people’s cars. For those who walk up, they are being instructed to stand 6 feet apart, Austin said.

Over at Klein Park, a table is set up to distribute meals. According to Baier, if a queue starts to form, people are told to keep appropriate distance between one another. Some families also drive up and stop at the curb to pick up meals.

Baier said he’s happy the school districts can continue to provide meals for students, especially during a time of uncertainty.

“It’s a nice, rare human interaction that we’re having with our families right now, in person,” he said.

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