Schools are closed. That doesn't mean students in need will go hungry. | News | Palo Alto Online |


Schools are closed. That doesn't mean students in need will go hungry.

Palo Alto, Ravenswood districts take steps to ensure all students stay fed during closures

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Baljit Singh, a food services employee with the Palo Alto Unified School District, distributes lunches at Gunn High School as schools remained closed because of the coronavirus on March 16, 2020. The district will provide free meals to all students during the closure. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

While schools are closed temporarily, students and families in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto will still have access to free meals provided by the public school districts.

Food distribution to students is considered an "essential" activity and can continue to operate despite new restrictions placed on non-essential activity, travel and business under a new shelter-in-place order announced by Bay Area public health officials on Monday afternoon. Food can only be provided for pickup and it can not be eaten at the locations where it's provided, the order states.

In Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, the meals will be distributed in a drive-thru model to reduce contact, meaning food service staff members will hand the food to families while they stay in their cars. Children must be present in order for the food to be provided, and each family is eligible for the quantity of meals equal to the number of children in the car. Both districts are asking families to stay in their cars and to avoid congregating when picking up meals.

Students in Palo Alto Unified's Voluntary Transfer Program (VTP) who live in East Palo Alto can pick up meals at Ravenswood schools and do not have to go to Palo Alto pickup sites. Ravenswood is offering meals to any students in East Palo Alto, regardless of whether they attend district schools.

From March 16 through April 3, Palo Alto Unified will provide free lunch to all children 18 and younger at the following sites:

• Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School, 480 E. Meadow Drive, Palo Alto.

• Gunn High School, 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto.

• Greene Middle School, 750 N. California Ave., Palo Alto.

Lunch at these sites will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Palo Alto Unified is also delivering meals to students who live in the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

The Palo Alto school district provided over 600 meals on Tuesday, March 17, according to Superintendent Don Austin.

Ravenswood served more than 1,000 meals on Tuesday, according to the district.

From March 16 through May 1, Ravenswood will provide free breakfast and lunch for all students at the following locations:

• Belle Haven Elementary, 415 Ivy Drive, Menlo Park.

• Brentwood Academy, 2086 Clarke Ave., East Palo Alto.

• Costaño School, 2695 Fordham St., East Palo Alto.

• Los Robles-Ronald McNair Academy, 2033 Pulgas Ave., East Palo Alto.

• Ravenswood Middle School, 2450 Ralmar Ave., East Palo Alto.

• Willow Oaks Elementary, 620 Willow Road, Menlo Park.

The meals will be available for pick up between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday in the parking lot or bus lane at each participating school.

During spring break, during spring break (March 27-April 3), meals will be distributed at all school sites on Thursday March 26.

Ravenswood also will offer home delivery for families who cannot come to the schools. Those families can contact the district's transportation department at 650-329-2800, ext. 60172. The delivery windows on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday will be 7-8:30 a.m. for breakfast and 2:45-4:30 p.m. for lunch. The delivery windows on Wednesday will be 7-8:30 a.m. for breakfast and 12:45-2:30 p.m. for lunch.

Other agencies are distributing food in East Palo Alto. Second Harvest Food Bank will distribute food on Saturday, March 28, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cesar Chavez-Ravenswood Middle School. The East Palo Alto Boys & Girls Club will provide hot dinner meals Monday through Friday from 6-7 p.m., including during spring break.

The Ravenswood Education Foundation has launched an emergency fund to provide financial relief related to the school closures for families, teachers and staff. The district is working to identify needs for the funds, including food access and distribution; support with rent, bills and groceries for families; distance learning; and financial support for staff, particularly certificated, hourly employees. If emergency needs do not deplete the fund, donations will roll over to support district programs when school resumes. They had raised more than $150,000 as of Thursday, March 19.

Ravenswood is also looking for volunteers who speak Spanish and English to help teachers and families communicate during distance learning. Adults who are bilingual and available to be part of virtual conference calls with teachers and families can fill out this form.

With funding from Palo Alto residents Greg and Anne Avis, and the Opportunity Fund, Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas is providing 1,000 meals a week for 200 students at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto. Students can pick up meals daily until the school's planned reopening in April.

Mountain View and Los Altos

Starting Wednesday, the Mountain View Whisman School District will be preparing lunches and breakfast for distribution to students who receive free and reduced-price meals within that district, the Los Altos School District and the Mountain View Los Altos High School District.

Students at the Mountain View Whisman and high school districts can pick up their meals at Gabriela Mistral Elementary School, 505 Escuela Ave., in Mountain View, between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. They won't be checking IDs and will offer the meals to children under 18 there every weekday until school reopens.

Students who receive free and reduced price meals in the Los Altos School District can pick up their meals, drive-thru style, at Egan Junior High School at 100 W. Portola Ave. in Los Altos between noon and 12:30 each day.

Menlo Park, Atherton and Woodside

The Menlo Park City School District is delivering meals to the homes of students on free or reduced-price lunch plans.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided to Sequoia Union High School District students who are in need of meals, according to the district's website. All school sites, which include TIDE Academy in Menlo Park, Woodside High School in Woodside and Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, will have packaged meals for student or parent pickup during the following times:

• Breakfast: 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

• Lunch: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Students will be able to pick up lunch and the following day's breakfast after 10 a.m. To receive meals, students will need to provide their name, student identification number and the name of which school in the district they attend.

Bus drivers for the Las Lomitas Elementary School District – which has one school in Menlo Park and one in Atherton – will be delivering lunches to all its students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch daily starting today, Wednesday, March 18, Superintendent Beth Polito said in an email to The Almanac.

The Woodside Elementary School District has nearly 40 students who are eligible for its lunch program, Superintendent Steve Frank said in a March 17 email. Woodside is partnering with the Ravenswood school district for meal distribution, which began Monday and runs through March 26 when Ravenswood is off for spring break.

Families can pick up meals at Ravenswood schools through March 26. During the Ravenswood district's six-day spring break, the Woodside district will be delivering meals to students.

If the school closure runs beyond Woodside's spring break, which ends on April 13, Ravenswood will continue to provide lunch service, Frank said.

A San Mateo County health department order issued on March 13 to close all transitional kindergarten through 12th grade schools required all schools to dismiss students from regular attendance from March 16 to April 3. Facilities may be used by school districts to provide free and reduced price meals to students.

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8 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2020 at 5:26 pm

Great work Ravenswood! Especially:

"Ravenswood is offering meals to any students in East Palo Alto, regardless of whether they attend district schools."

Please consider giving to the emergency fund linked in the article.

9 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 17, 2020 at 10:34 am

Sure this is nice, but shouldn't people learn how to care for themselves which included cooking for yourself? I'm concern for a generation that becomes so dependent on others that they need to be feed.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

22 people like this
Posted by Michelle
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 17, 2020 at 11:25 am

Alan, we are a nation without a safety net, without a living wage. People can be working more than one job and not have enough to cover food, rent and bills. Add in this crisis and people already on the edge are losing their jobs.
The least we can do is ensure that children do not go hungry for circumstances that are completely out of their hands.
Your comment is neither clever or appropriate. It just shows you lack compassion, perspective or grip on reality for those living outside your bubble.

6 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 17, 2020 at 12:14 pm


Respectfully I disagree with your conclusion.

Yes, we are a nation without a safety-net, but nobody starves in this nation.

Most of the homeless that are asking for money in San Francisco are not using that money to buy food, most of them are using it to buy drugs and perpetuate the cause of their homelessness.

Whenever I'm approached by a homeless person my response is "I'm not going to give you money, but I'll buy you anything you want from [fill in grocery-store or restaurant within site here]". Do you know what % of the homeless take me up on the offer? I'd say less than 10%, maybe even less than 5%, and I've been doing this 20 years.

Now with regards to providing lunches, yes sure do it. But also encourage people to learn to take care of themselves instead of treating them like they are incapable of it, from the moment they are young kids.

3 people like this
Posted by Carlito waysmann
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2020 at 3:59 pm

How do you teach individual responsibility when there are a lot of freebies coming your way?

I understand that some good hearted individuals believe that providing free stuff is the woke way to do the right thing, but here is the thing, that free stuff is not free, is tax money from all of us. Is money that would be better used to pay teachers, fix schools etc.

Palo Alto's kids go to bed hungry? Really?
Better yet , those Palo Altans do gooders can get their wallets out and go to those communities where kids go hungry every night to help.

3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2020 at 4:45 pm

Posted by Alan, a resident of Charleston Meadows

>> Yes, we are a nation without a safety-net, but nobody starves in this nation.

I wish headline writers would stop using the word "hungry" in this context. Commodity starchy foods are so cheap now that they might as well be as free as air. Most kids are not actually "hungry". If you are actually starving to death, all those starches are welcome, but, if that is all you eat, you will die of kwashiorkor. Nobody starves in this nation, more or less, but, lots of poor people do not have good nutrition. Good nutrition is the goal for these programs. We just need a better word for the headlines. "Lacking nutrition" doesn't work like "hungry". Suggestions?

As for the "free stuff" question, another way to look at it is by using the word "included". It may, or, may not, may sense for airline meals to be "included" with a ticket. It may or may not make sense for breakfast to be "included" with the B(&B) price. It may or may not make sense for breakfast and/or lunch to be included as part of what a school provides students. IF the provided meals are nutritionally sound, THEN, personally, I think it makes sense for breakfast and lunch to be INCLUDED. I don't think it makes sense to ration good nutrition, and, I think good student nutrition provides taxpayers a huge payback in the long run.

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