School districts have been the largest providers of free meals for children since schools closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"There are some kids where the only food they've got for the day is at our school, so we give them food so they can have it at home,” said Monica Macias, a Senior Food Worker at the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD).
Since the coronavirus shut down schools earlier this year, SDUSD said it's since distributed 4 million meals to kids.
Many school districts have been giving free “grab-and-go” meals to any child, ages 2 and older, since the beginning of the pandemic and through the summer.
In August, the federal government ended flexible meal programs that allowed districts to provide free food for all children, whether they were enrolled as students or not. Weekend meals also ended. But on Saturday, the weekend meal program resumed.
“We always worry about, you know, what's going to happen with our kids on the weekends," said Richard Barrera, Vice President of the San Diego Unified School District Board. "About two-thirds of our students qualify for free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch program so that's about 65,000 students.”
“We lobbied hard," he continued. "Our congressional representatives, including Susan Davis, were great champions in pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow us to continue to provide weekend meals.”
Free weekend meals will continue through the end of 2020 or until funds run out. Barrera said they will continue to urge the USDA to fully fund the current federal extensions so that students have access to meals throughout the duration of the pandemic.
Certain students have to complete paperwork to show they qualify for free or reduced-price meals. However, students at more than 120 schools will automatically qualify for free meals, based on the number of low-income students attending those schools.
SDUSD families can pick up food at any one of the district's 81 schools, Monday through Friday from noon to 2 p.m.
Extra meals for the weekend will be distributed Thursdays and Fridays. Some locations offer additional services, including food pantries.