It’s time to celebrate Capistrano Unified’s school lunch heroes

By Elysse James

Capistrano Unified’s Food and Nutrition Services employees are certainly heroic every year, but their efforts this year to keep all kids fed despite schools being closed deserve extra praise.

To honor CUSD’s lunch heroes, the district is requesting pictures of letters, cards, and creations made by local kids to share on School Lunch Hero Day, May 1. Email your pictures to Nutrition Specialist Shannon Illingworth [email protected] by April 30 to be included.

And that’s not all — when families pick up their meals on Monday, May 4, they can give a special ‘thank you’ by decorating their car, dressing up as a superhero, making posters and cheering.

At the end of six weeks of socially-distanced food distribution, CUSD has served 34,052 breakfasts and lunches. That’s a total of 152,193 meals since the effort began in March, said Food and Nutrition Services Director Kristin Hilleman.

Kaci Lucariello, 6, left, and her brother, Tre Lucariello, 10, grab school lunches from a tray left by a food service worker. Parents and their kids have to wait for the school employee to leave the food on the tray before approaching it as part of their no contact policy.
Photo by Steven Georges/Cornerstone Communications

The district is providing lunches on Mondays and Wednesdays only, in order to decrease contact and increase convenience, she said.

Each child receives two breakfasts and two lunches on Mondays and three breakfasts and three lunches on Wednesday. All local children are invited to receive meals from the Capistrano Unified distribution sites.

The district is reimbursed for the cost of each meal by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Hilleman said.

Any child age 18 and younger can receive the meals as long as they are in the vehicle; if children are not in the vehicle adults must hold documentation up to the window, such as a letter or email from the school showing the child is enrolled, a report card, attendance record, student ID card, or birth certificate for a child not in school.

To pick up meals, people stay in their vehicles and line up at the participating school sites. As the vehicles approach the curb, signal how many meals are needed by holding up that number of fingers. Staff then place meals on a cart next to the curb, and step away at least 6 feet before the person gets out of their vehicle to collect the food, doing their best to not touch the cart. If the cart is touched, it will be sanitized before the next meal is placed.

This keeps everyone a safe distance apart to protect both employees and families.

Meals are served between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.

This service takes place in the parking lot or bus lane at these campuses: 

  • Carl Hankey K-8: 27252 Nubles, Mission Viejo
  • Castille Elementary: 24042 Vía La Coruna, Mission Viejo
  • Hidden Hills Elementary: 25142 Hidden Hills Rd, Laguna Niguel
  • Las Flores Elementary: 25862 Antonio Pkwy, Rancho Santa Margarita
  • Las Palmas Elementary: 1101 Calle Puente, San Clemente
  • Marblehead Elementary: 2410 Via Turqueza, San Clemente
  • Marco Forster Middle School: 25601 Camino Del Avion, San Juan Capistrano
  • Marian Bergeson Elementary: 25302 Rancho Niguel Rd, Laguna Niguel
  • H. Dana Elementary: 24242 La Cresta Dr, Dana Point
  • San Juan Elementary: 31642 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano
  • Wood Canyon Elementary: 23431 Knollwood, Aliso Viejo

Visit the Food & Nutrition Services Department website for more information.

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