San Francisco Unified Provides 1 Million Meals and Counting During COVID-19 Crisis
When it was announced that schools would close March 16 due to COVID-19, our Student Nutrition Services team mobilized to create new service models to continue to provide meals to the district’s 56,000 students during this crisis. Since then, over 1 million meals have been served to San Francisco children.
Free Grab & Go Meals
On March 17, we began to provide free grab and go meals at shuttered schools across the City. Served via walk-up “windows” created at the door of each school site, this program has served over 930,000 meals since schools closed. In San Francisco, we know many families rely on walking or public transit rather than cars to get around, so we had to develop an innovative way to serve families while ensuring the safety of staff. This model has been a great success, providing an easy and reliable way for families to access meals. On Monday, two days worth of breakfast, lunch and supper is served; and on Wednesday, three days worth. Each grab and go bag includes meals such as cereal and muffins for breakfast; sandwiches and pupusas for lunch; pizza and burritos for supper; plus fresh fruit, vegetables and milk.
Parents have remarked that the twice-weekly visit to pick up meals at school provides a routine for their children who are sorely missing their school schedule and the familiar faces of teachers and staff. Plus, the opportunity to enjoy a school lunch favorite at home is a bright spot in their day.
In addition, we have partnered with seven community-based organizations to provide free grab & go meals at additional locations throughout San Francisco. These organizations can provide direct relief to families experiencing food insecurity that may not be able to access the school sites. This program has served over 70,000 meals to San Francisco families, providing convenience for families experiencing economic hardship and food insecurity due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Jennifer LeBarre, Executive Director of Student Nutrition Services, knew that the grab and go meals would not serve everyone, and wanted to address students with disabilities and special dietary needs that could become especially vulnerable to food insecurity during this crisis. The McAteer Culinary Center, the District’s first full cooking kitchen opened last Fall, provided an opportunity to prepare special meals for students. Door-to-door delivery of these special 5-day meal boxes is provided by District employees who volunteer their services. The District has delivered over 13,000 meals to students with disabilities and special dietary needs since schools closed.
During the typical school year, we serve 180,000 meals each week at 119 schools. The week of May 4, almost 170,000 meals were served at 24 sites. This demand shows the rising need in the City and the opportunity school food programs have to provide meals during a crisis.
At Student Nutrition Services, we’re committed to ensuring no child goes hungry and will provide free meals to all children in San Francisco while schools are closed. To learn more about our program, visit sfusd.edu/schoolfood.