In a typical five-day school week in February, the food service staff in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District serves approximately 100,000 meals at 47 sites. In spite of the closure of all school campuses, district staff volunteers are preparing about 40,000 meals weekly distributed through curbside service at nine schools.
Dominic Machi is the district’s Director of Food & Nutrition Services. As he observed the process Friday in front of El Dorado Middle School in Concord, Machi showed obvious pride for what his 82 staff volunteers and several dozen other MDUSD administrative, staff and faculty volunteers are accomplishing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I want to acknowledge the incredible work happening during this crisis. Placing their lives on the line as also ‘First Responders,’ which was asked of them by the federal government under the United States Department of Agriculture.” He added, “I want my staff to feel appreciated for the incredible work they are doing. They are unsung heroes.”
The National School Lunch Program began in 1946 at the end of World War II and now serves 5.5 billion school meals a year. Machi says this pandemic has caused the program to be categorized as a national security issue for the first time in those 74 years with the direction to assist in mass feeding around the country during the pandemic.
In MDUSD, 43% of its approximate 30,000 students are in the free or reduced-price meals program. Whenever students are allowed back on campus, he anticipates that percentage will balloon up to 55-60% of all students with the unemployment rate in California skyrocketing by the day.
MDUSD initially shut down campuses on Friday, Mar. 13. By the next Wednesday, Mar. 18, the curbside lunch program was in operation. In order to simplify the system for staff and families needing food, the Monday and Wednesday food bags include two day’s meals. Friday distribution includes a bag of fruits and vegetables from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano in addition to meals for that day.
Machi says each meal includes grains, meat or protein, fruit, vegetables and milk (which is optional).
Cassie Van Dyke, Silverwood Elementary cafeteria manager in regular circumstances, stood in the El Dorado parking lot Friday. As each vehicle reached her, she would ask how many meals were needed and whether they wanted milk with each. She shouted the numbers to a group of volunteers who filled the order and wheeled it to the curb for pickup as each vehicle pulled up.
To make it convenient for all residents in the district to pick up food, MDUSD lunchtime distribution is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in Concord (Mt. Diablo High, Ygnacio Valley High, El Dorado, Meadow Homes Elementary, Cambridge Elementary), Bay Point (Bel Air Elementary, Riverview Middle), Walnut Creek (Foothill Middle) and Pleasant Hill (Valley View Middle).
Curbside distribution to continue
Machi, a long-time Concord resident who came to the district three years ago from the Davis Joint USD, says MDUSD got approval this week to continue its curbside food distribution program until the new school year begins Aug. 13. The program had been slated to end at the close of this semester June 3.
The current district program is also providing meals to seniors in the county through the City of Concord and Diablo Region Meals on Wheels. Machi adds, “In the Bay Point area, we are working with The Bay Church providing groceries to families who are receiving meals through our Grab N Go distribution program at Bel Air Elementary. The County Connection bus service is picking up meals at Bel Air and distributing meals to homes for those who cannot travel to the school site to receive meals.”
St. Vincent de Paul Society of Contra Costa, the Food Bank and White Pony Express are supplying food for giveaway at Parkhaven Community Church and four Catholic Churches in Concord (Queen of All Saints, St. Agnes, St. Bonaventure and St. Francis of Assisi). Monument Crisis Center is also having food distribution weekly.
Clayton Valley Charter meal program
Clayton Valley Charter High School is distributing breakfast and lunch weekdays from 9 a.m. – noon. Executive Director Jim Scheible reports they are giving away 4,000 meals a week (19,862 in five weeks). Their Friday distribution includes meals for three days.
Machi says donations from Pepsi Cola, Girl Scouts of America in Martinez and KIND Snacks have supplemented the food MDUSD gets through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. The food is prepared at their central kitchen at Loma Vista Adult School near Concord BART Station. A new 5600 square foot storage warehouse for the food service department is under construction (funded by Measure C) at the district’s maintenance and operations facility on Gasoline Alley in Concord.
During the school year, breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner are available. Even now with fewer meals being prepared, the Loma Vista central kitchen is operating weekdays by 4:30 a.m.
As cars, trucks, SUVs, bicycles and minivans pulled in to pick up food on Friday, the volunteers would get a “thank you” or smile from many people. One man grabbed the food and vegetables bags, looked up and said, “You guys have been awesome.”
For updates, visit mdusd.org