District nutrition services begins serving summer meals

June 29, 2020
As school districts in California begin their summer meal programs for students and families, nutrition staff are planning new ways to increase participation while looking ahead to schools reopening in the fall. Summer meals began June 1 in Hesperia Unified School District, said April Brown, the district’s assistant director of nutrition services. The district planned to serve a few hundred students and families each at three different sites. She said it’s uncertain how many families they will serve this summer, and that getting information out about summer meals has been a challenge since schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a traditional school year, Brown said the district normally serves 23,000 meals per day, including 10,000 daily lunches. In a normal summer, Brown said she’s lucky if she feeds 800 lunches per day. “We went from 23,000 meals a day, to serving that per week,” Brown said. “For every meal we serve, we get revenue from that. If we don’t serve meals, we don’t make money.” Brown said she and Nutrition Supervisor LaShawn Bray have been active on social media to increase outreach, which these days is their only real option to reach students. “We’re hoping they’ll realize we are still here and come for the summer meals,” Bray said. Hesperia’s nutrition department does more than feed students and their families. In the past, staff have incorporated literacy into the program, including regular book-reading sessions during the summer. This year, they hope to organize a “drive-in” book reading, where families can drive up to one station to receive meals and a book, then pull into a nearby parking lot and eat while nutrition staff reads the book using a megaphone. “If they can’t stay, they can follow along on Facebook,” Brown said. “It keeps everybody safe and gives us the opportunity for us to read for them and for them to take home books.” Similarly, Rialto Unified School District nutrition services staff has had to alter their plans for this summer. During a meeting of the San Bernardino County Nutrition Action Partnership, Kristina Kraushaar, program innovator for Rialto Child Nutrition, said Facebook Live will become a big part of this summer’s programming, allowing for livestreams of previous in-person events such as barbecues. “We’re doing online activities,” Kraushaar said. “We’re doing Facebook Live so kids can see (staff) cooking.” Another idea is a virtual “summer camp,” Kraushaar said. “It’s essentially a giant bingo card, and has QR codes on it for kids to view videos and do activities,” she said. “When they’ve completed all the summer activities, they’re going to bring it to us and show it to us. Everything we’re doing this summer is to build upon what we were doing in distance learning.” Nutrition services staff are looking beyond the summer, too. Brown said while districts and administrators are investigating how to reopen schools in the fall, nutrition services staff should have a voice in the process. “When it comes to eating in the classroom, or not eating in the classroom — there’s insight we can give on that,” Brown said. “We’re not going to be able to socially distance with our kids six feet apart in a lunch line, and get them through it in 15 minutes.” Bray added that serving lunch in a classroom comes with its own questions. “What equipment do we need to get it all to classrooms?” she said. “We have to purchase a lot of carts. There’s a lot of planning.”

“When it comes to eating in the classroom, or not eating in the classroom — there’s insight we can give on that. We’re not going to be able to socially distance ... in a lunch line, and get them through it in 15 minutes.”
—April Brown, Assistant Director of Nutrition Services, Hesperia USD
Brown noted that nutrition services funds itself, and can feed all children, not just those who qualify for free and reduced meals. She said that’s a key point for administrators to understand. “The more we feed, the more we make and can give back, and not be a burden on the General Fund,” she said.
Summer_Meals_3
Students in Hesperia USD express their thanks for nutrition services.
Nutrition services staff at Hesperia Unified School District have begun distributing summer meals, however, administrators worry that fewer students will participate in this program during the summer.

© 2020 Association of California School Administrators