Here's What Happened The First Day LAUSD Handed Out Free Meals

Volunteers stand in front of Linda Esperanza Marquez High School advertising the grab-and-go meals in English and Spanish with makeshift signs. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

By Carla Javier and Chava Sanchez

When schools throughout the region were ordered closed, districts were faced with how to keep feeding kids who rely on them for daily meals. The L.A. Unified School District responded with a plan to serve them through 60 "grab-and-go" meal distribution centers.

"On an ordinary day in Los Angeles Unified we serve our students more than 1 million meals," Superintendent Austin Beutner wrote in a letter. "These are not ordinary days and we know many children still need help."

Wednesday was the first day of operations — and at the end of the day, LA Unified officials reported that more than 40,000 meals were handed out.


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At sites visited by LAist on Wednesday morning, makeshift signs in English and in Spanish pointed drivers and pedestrians to volunteers with bagged meals. Breakfast bags we saw at one location included Chex cinnamon cereal and milk. Lunch bags had what looked like Uncrustables peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruit, among other items.

"There's a very real problem of a second pandemic — a pandemic of hunger — sweeping across Los Angeles," American Red Cross Los Angeles CEO Jarrett Barrios said in a phone interview. That's why his organization teamed up with LAUSD to staff the distribution centers.

On the first day, 200 Red Cross volunteers joined LAUSD staff members to hand out breakfasts and lunches to kids.

A volunteer staff member at a pickup spot in North Hollywood said by 9 a.m., about 50 cars had pulled in, and another eight families had walked up.

"I believe in hindsight we'll look back and think of this as a slow day, because this was the first day," Barrios said. "Many parents are still hearing about the program."

Meals are available for kids at each center regardless of where they attend school. If your kids or young people you know would benefit from free meals while school is closed, we're keeping a running list of meal pickup spots around Los Angeles County — including the 60 LAUSD locations, which are open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Here's what they looked like the first day they were open:

Parents can either drive by or walk up and collect food at any one of the 60 meal distribution centers across L.A. Unified School District. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
Dr. Reginald Sample, LAUSD Community of School Administrator, hands a parent meals for his children at a grab-and-go meal distribution center in the parking lot of Edison Middle School in South L.A. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
LAUSD employees and volunteers wait for parents to arrive at the Grab-and-Go Food Center outside Hollenbeck Middle School. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
A variety of foods are packed into plastic bags and then handed to parents and students that drive by the Grab-and-Go Meal Distribution Center. (Chava Sanchez/Laist)