By Elysse James
Capistrano Unified is serving lunches and breakfasts to local children during the three-week school closure.
On the first day Capistrano Unified provided free lunches – more than 1,000 children were served at four school sites. That’s more than double the number of children that pick up free lunches during the summer meal program.
Starting Wednesday, March 18, the district will provide a breakfast bar or cereal cup with fruit and milk for the child to enjoy the following morning.
Because of the emergency school closure and the reschedule of Spring Break, employees have been volunteering to come to work and help make lunches for the children. The district is closed an additional two weeks from March 23 to April 3, 2020 in response to COVID-19 concerns.
“We have had an outpouring of utter kindness from the community thanking us for making this available,” said Kristin Hilleman, director of food and nutrition services for Capistrano Unified. “It’s very kind of these people and shows that we are all in this together.”
On Monday, March 16, 2020, Capistrano Unified provided 281 lunches at San Juan Elementary School, 357 at Hidden Hills Elementary School, 242 at Marco Forster Middle School, and 209 at Las Palmas Elementary School, officials said.
The idea came about a couple weeks ago as district officials began brainstorming how to handle a possible novel coronavirus outbreak. The district then requested a waiver to allow them to serve all children, not just students or those on the free and reduced-price lunch plans.
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 is serving items such as hummus and string cheese, yogurt with granola, and frozen entrees including pizza, build your own nachos, and chicken sandwiches, Illingworth said. Each meal includes milk, a grain, a protein, fruit, and a vegetable. Lunch on St. Patrick’s Day will include a shamrock cookie.
“(The meals) happened to be ready to go and already wrapped,” she said. “So it’s a way to use what we already have.”
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.
To pick up a lunch or breakfast from the district’s four drive-through sites from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, the children age 18 or younger must be present. The sites are located at San Juan Elementary and Marco Forster Middle School in San Juan Capistrano, Las Palmas Elementary in San Clemente, Hidden Hills Elementary in Laguna Niguel, and RH Dana Elementary School in Dana Point.
More information and resources are available on the district website here.
More about how Capistrano Unified continues to prepare for and prevent COVID-19: