The Coast News Group
Escondido school lunches
A group of volunteers hands out meals to members of the community at San Pasqual High School. The Escondido School Districts have partnered together to provide two free meals every weekday to children impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Photo courtesy of Tigist Layne
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Escondido school districts providing free meals to children

ESCONDIDO – Two of the city’s school districts are giving free meals to local children after statewide school closures left many students without a reliable source of food.

Escondido Union School District (EUSD) and Escondido Union High School District (EUHSD) have partnered to provide two meals — breakfast and lunch — to K-8 and high school kids in the community.

“These are children who attend our schools, and working together the districts have found the very best way to meet our community’s needs,” said Dr. Luis Rankins-Ibarra, EUSD superintendent.

The distribution started on March 16, soon after both suspended in-person learning in an effort to protect students and faculty from the potential spread of the coronavirus.

Since then, employees and volunteers have provided meals to at least 2,800 children every weekday. In the first 13 days of the distribution, more than 46,000 meals were given out at all eight distribution sites combined.

At EUSD and EUHSD, some 60% of high school students and 70% of K-8 students rely on their respective districts’ nutrition programs. With school closures affecting dozens of campuses across both districts, students no longer had a reliable source for the meals they would have been receiving at school.

“The intention is to ensure the health and well-being of our kids. School is more than just school for a lot of our students,” said Michelle Breier, Digital Communications Specialist at EUSD. “That means getting two meals a day at school. So, this is to ensure that we’re still providing a really valuable resource for our students. It’s one less thing to worry about.”

Meals are distributed from 11 a.m. to noon Monday – Friday at Central, Juniper, and Rock Springs elementary schools; Del Dios Academy; Mission Middle School; and Escondido, Orange Glen, and San Pasqual high schools. Meals are provided for students 18 years and younger.

Both districts are committed to continuing the community distribution for as long as necessary, according to Breier.

The distribution is operated by at least 30 of the districts’ nutrition services employees and more than two dozen volunteers, including teachers, counselors, principals and school board members from both districts.

“During this public health crisis, EUSD and EUHSD are united in doing whatever it takes for as long as necessary to ensure the health and safety of all students in our community,” said Dr. Anne Staffieri, EUHSD superintendent.