By Chris Frost
Oxnard—Parents and kids made their way to Lemonwood Elementary School, July 27, as the Oxnard School district wrapped up its summer meal program and gave those attending much-needed supplies.
Lemonwood, Driffill, RJ Frank, and Freemont elementary schools provided the lunches.
The distribution started at the outset of Covid-19 in March and supports people who may have been affected by the virus and lost their job or anyone else from the school district who has a need. Many parents work in the fields, and in the Lemonwood area, many families are in the same house living together.
The kids were well behaved, stayed by their moms, and helped carry the food to their car. The food is distributed to parents who have children between the ages of 1-18 years.
The food followed all the state nutritional requirements, so the boxes had veggies, fruits, grains, and milk in accordance with the United States Department of Agriculture. The district distributes 600 meals a week at Lemonwood.
Kitchen Coordinator Esteban Varela is on loan from Juan Soria Elementary School for the summer and makes sure the kids get food.
“What we did in the district is, we made a meal box,” he said. “It provides lunch and breakfast for the kids for five days. The parents show up on Monday, they’ll get a little meal box, and it has enough food for the for the whole week.”
When the program started in March, the school district made meal boxes for the families at their warehouse. The boxes now come pre-packed from a distributor.
For now, he said everything remains shuttered.
“That’s the hard part about this,” Varela said. “We’re trying to get vendors to distribute, but everything is closing and shutting down.”
In the Lemonwood area, he said families are struggling.
“Kids come to school, and the only meal they have are the ones we are providing,” Varela said. “We’re trying to reach those kids, the ones who really need the food and go to school to eat, instead of getting an education. It’s an important thing for us to still offer this for the families who need it and will be at home with no food because the parents are working.”
People who come to the school hungry and don’t meet the requirements get referred to agencies who can help.
One agency that helps these people is Food Share Ventura County.
“We do have a paper we give the parents that send them to a page at the school district website that tells them about Food Share and other agencies,” he said. “There are rules that we need to follow, but we are humans.”
He loves seeing all the kids.
“Especially if it’s a kid from your school,” he said. “They see you and say oh, you’re here. You see their excitement and smile, and they are excited to see you. It energizes us, and we can continue to do our job even though we’re not in school.”
Kathy Cooper from Driffill Elementary School took information on the families, like how many meals they needed for the kids, and she relayed it to people handing out boxes. She works for the school district.
“It was offered to us for about six weeks every Monday,” she said. “This is our last day today, but they may start it back up in August.”
The district is not looking towards a traditional September return.
“Hopefully, that will change, and people will help flatten out curve and get a handle on this,” she said.
She too, loves seeing the kids and parents each Monday.
“It breaks up the monotony at home,” she said. “I prefer working and meeting new people at this school. You can only do so many dog walks a day.”