By Elysse James
Capistrano Unified’s food and nutrition services have stepped up in the wake of school closures to ensure that every child in the area receives a free meal.
To date, the employees — who have volunteered to work despite this being spring break — have served a total of 15,932 meals at a handful of campuses in Capistrano Unified. The district is planning to add more campuses to meet demand.
“It’s what we do every day. We feed kids,” said Kristin Hilleman, director of food and nutrition services for Capistrano Unified. “This is just something special. Our food nutrition services team is amazing… Not all heroes wear capes, some wear aprons. That’s our people.”
On Wednesday, CUSD served 4,064 meals, with the number expected to climb as more campuses are mobilized for the meal delivery effort. That’s a jump of 2,975 meals just since Monday, which was the first day CUSD offered meals to kids in need.
“We really didn’t know what to expect this week,” Hilleman said. “We’ve been playing it by ear day by day.”
To keep everyone safe and reduce contact, drivers are asked to open their trunk for meal delivery, or to lower the window next to an empty seat where the food can be placed. To pick up a meal from the district’s drive-through sites from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, the children age 18 or younger must be present.
“Our employees are on the front lines and we’re trying to keep them safe,” Hilleman said.
The meals include a breakfast bar or cereal cup with fruit and milk for the following day’s breakfast, as well as various lunches including pizza, chicken sandwiches, and more.
“It’s been nothing but positivity from people,” Hilleman said. “A lot of thank-yous, people offering to help and volunteer… All in all it’s been very positive.”
During this pandemic, we’re in a climate where we may have a family that wouldn’t normally qualify for free or reduced-price meals, but now they’re in a situation in which they need this type of help, said Shannon Illingworth, nutrition specialist for Capistrano Unified.
The district continues to abide by food safety and sanitation practices, as well as increasing handwashing and social distancing. Their services are routinely inspected by a safety and sanitation partner as well as by the county.
The district is closed until April 13, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will continue to feed no matter what,” Hilleman said, adding that districts throughout Orange County have similar programs. “It’s a great thing. I’m just really proud of my team and what we do.”
Meals are being offered at the following campuses:
San Juan Elementary School, 31642 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Marco Forster Middle School, 25601 Camino del Avion, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Las Palmas Elementary, 1101 Calle Puente, San Clemente, CA 92672
Hidden Hills Elementary, 25142 Hidden Hills Road, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
RH Dana Elementary School, 24242 La Cresta, Dana Point, CA 92629
Wood Canyon Elementary School, 23431 Knollwood, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
Las Flores Elementary School, 25862 Antonio Parkway, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
Starting on Monday: Carl Hankey K8 School, 27252 Nubles, Mission Viejo, CA 92692
More about how Capistrano Unified continues to prepare for and prevent COVID-19: