By KEA YENGST
The Carmel Unified School District has been using aid from volunteers and cafeteria staff to distribute food to families in need, distributing bundles while simultaneously practicing social distancing, all with a goal of resolving the issue of not having enough food during the shelter-in-place order.
CUSD’s director of nutrition services Mary Jennings utilizes two programs to distribute a day’s worth of food, serving breakfast and lunch on Monday and Wednesday at Carmel Middle School, along with distributing on a weekly basis.
“It would be great to thank all of our school staff that have volunteered to work during the school shutdown, including our nutritional staff, bus drivers and special education teachers.” Jennings says.
Meals are distributed by nutrition services staff in six different locations, including Tularcitos Elementary School, CMS, Ventana and Post Ranch.
Teachers, food services staff and other district employees have also been lending a hand in this process. Paul Behan, the chief technology officer at Carmel High School, has been notifying parents and students about where and when the meals will be distributed.
“We’ve been sending regular reminder emails, texts and voice messages,” Behan says. “Meals are free for all children age 18 and under, regardless of what school they attend during this emergency crisis.”
The process of meal distribution follows social distancing protocols advised by the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Volunteers affiliated with this service have made it clear that social distancing must be practiced in order to prevent potential infection of COVID-19.
“A family drives up to the curb and stays behind a cone, then one car at a time will proceed to the serving area and park in front of the food table,” Behan says. “A parent or child will then pick up a meal package, then the parent drives away and the next car can proceed.”
This service has also been helping local businesses like the Bagel Bakery, Pizza My Heart and Second Harvest Food Bank by using their food and home essentials within each meal package.
“The volunteers accept food donations from a local food bank and have raised thousands [of dollars] to help feed families hardest hit in this economic crisis,” Jennings says. “We are also helping out some of the local vendors like Pizza My Heart, which serves fresh pizza for our lunches two times a week, and The Bagel Bakery is making sandwiches for us, so it’s a win-win situation.”
CUSD is not the only district distributing food to their families. Numerous Monterey County school districts, including Salinas and Pacific Grove, have been doing their part as well.
While the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of slowing anytime soon, cafeteria staff and volunteers are diligently providing food and essentials for those in need.