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Central, South Coast Schools Closed By Coronavirus Concerns, But Set Up Free Lunch Programs For Kids

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Families pick up bagged lunches for kids at Santa Susana High School

A steady stream of cars is pulling into the parking lot at Simi Valley’s Berylwood Elementary school to pick up sack lunches. School districts throughout the Central and South Coasts have scrambled to set up lunch programs. With thousands of kids in the region coming from low-income families, the meals can sometimes mean the different between eating, and going hungry.

Ryan Comerford is Director of Child Nutrition for the Simi Valley Unified School District. She says about a third of the more than six thousand students a day who eat school lunches in the district get the subsidized lunches. Comerford says they have lots of food on hand, but it’s required some juggling to get it to the two schools where the lunches are being distributed.

Casey Baratone is the mother of three kids. They live near the elementary school, and walked over to pick up sack lunches. She’s a middle school teacher, so her two elementary school age kids are now attend her impromptu home school.  She likes the lunch programs, which are being offered at schools throughout the region.

At the other Simi Valley Unified School District lunch pickup site, Santa Susana High School, there’s also a steady stream of cars and SUV driving through the parking lot of pick up lunches.  Matt Guzzo, who’s Santa Susana High’s principal, says while turnout for the lunches was good on its first day, they hope even more families will come regularly.

The lunch programs are taking different forms in different school districts on the Central and South Coasts. For instance, the Santa Barbara Unified School District is offering bag lunches at 10 campuses. And, a few campuses are even offering grab and go breakfasts for kids. The meals are all designed to be takeaway. They are available to all children under 18 years of age at no cost. But, the kids must be present to get the meals. The goal is a simple one: To make sure kids don’t go hungry during the crisis.