OUSD staff and volunteers preparing bags for the Grab and Go Free Meal Program at Garfield Elementary School on Thursday, April 9.
Saturday, April 11, 2020
Contact: John Sasaki
Communications Director

OUSD’s Grab and Go Free Meal Program Has Now Distributed Almost 600,000 Meals; Staff and Volunteers Shine

Grab and Go Free Meal Program at Castlemont High School on Thursday, April 9.
Oakland, CA - After four weeks in service, OUSD’s Grab and Go free meal program has now handed out just 72 meals shy of 600,000 to students and families in need. Plus, with support from the World Central Kitchen, the program has distributed 70,000 adult meals to families. All told, at the 12 sites where the program is offering the service on Monday and Thursday mornings, our staff and volunteers are now serving about 14,000 students and their families per day. As the slow down in the economy has hit many Oakland families particularly hard with loss of jobs and resources, the number of families coming to the meal distribution sites has steadily increased.
Grab and Go Free Meal Program at Sankofa Elementary School on Thursday, April 9.
At the sites, the Alameda County Community Food Bank has given more than 13,000 bags of groceries to families, along with almost 17 tons of fruits and vegetables. In addition to food, the program has also handed out children’s books, art supplies, dental kits, and pet food from the Berkeley Humane Society. The District also just received nine pallets of diapers from an organization called Help a Mother Out. They will be given to families with small children. And at at least one site, OUSD staff members helped some families complete their online unemployment applications.
Donated diapers.
One thing that has remained constant throughout this challenging time is the dedication of the people who make the food distribution and other benefits possible. They are OUSD nutrition services staff, school and central office staff and volunteers. Hundreds of them work long hours preparing meals, organizing food items, bagging all of it together, and giving everything out to families who arrive on foot or drive up to some schools at curbside. They do all this while practicing proper social distancing. Here’s a look at some of these remarkable people.
Latacha O’Neal, Nutrition Services Staff, Piedmont Avenue Elementary
“I feel honored to be here to still provide for the community and the children that depend on us, you know, solely for breakfast and lunch. I can only imagine what they’re going through right now. I also work at the Grocery Outlet and I hear the parents in there saying, ‘I can’t afford to feed my kids.’ And I try to tell them about our distribution centers, too. ‘Please come and get food for the kids.’”
Susan Bean, Americorps/Foodcorps Servicemember, Garfield Elementary (She runs the school’s garden, nutrition, and cooking program and volunteered to help with the Grab and Go program.)
“The need is so great. What we’re doing right now doesn’t even meet those needs. We’re giving out food bank bags, but those run out in 30 minutes. We get delivery every single time, about 150, and that just tells you people just really really want those canned goods. It’s equally impactful, if not even more, just seeing my students in the backs of their cars with their masks on, through the windows. And just how excited they are just to see a familiar face, and how grateful every family is to get food.”
Geraldine Meeks, Nutrition Services Staff Member, Chabot Elementary/Sankofa Elementary
“I would like to give a special shout out to our supervisors cause we’re on the front line and a lot of time we get really really frazzled because it’s new uncharted territory for everybody, but our supervisors like Donnie, Cassaundra, Charletta and Gwen, and all those that are at nutrition services at the office, they just keep us calm. If we have an issue, or we need to call, they just tell us the information and we’re moving on. So, we appreciate that. I feel proud. I started getting cabin fever and I feel good knowing I am doing some good service.”

Qi Ma, Nutrition Services Staff Member, Skyline High School
“It feels good. I feel very happy because I helped the people. The people stay home, some of them need support, right, so they need someone to support. So, we have to help them.”

Carletta Collins, School Security Officer, Castlemont High School (She has worked as an SSO since 1994, at Oakland High, Oakland Tech, Fremont High, Elmhurst Middle, Madison Park, and now at Castlemont.)
“Our community is suffering, in poverty. We just need more jobs and more resources and referrals for the people… it’s getting worse, especially with the pandemic, it’s getting awful. I’m very passionate about what I do, whether I impact the children, or the adults or the community. So, I’m just hands on with anything I do.”
Peggy Gruendl, Nutrition Services Staff Member, Sankofa Elementary (Ms. Gruendl declined to be photographed.)
“I get up every morning at 5:30 to come here to be with these children to make sure they get fed. I finally found my passion, what I really like and enjoy. And that is to be here with children and feeding them and nurturing them. I’m very grateful to be able to help out our children here in Oakland and our community. This has really opened up my eyes to how well we all work together and how we all come together to serve our community.”
“Our staff are definitely rock stars,” says Nutrition Services Executive Director, Irene Reynolds.  “I am incredibly proud of our staff, our school and central office staff and our volunteers. They turned the operation on a dime and on the fly, and made magic happen for the children of Oakland. Other school districts are looking at Oakland as a model for how to feed students, and it’s because of this incredible staff. It’s a well-oiled machine. It’s amazing to watch.”

The Grab and Go free meal program continues at 12 sites across the city every Monday and Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to noon. For more information, you can visit our website here.
About the Oakland Unified School District
In California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 83 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success. 

To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit OUSD.org and follow us @OUSDnews.

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Oakland Unified School District
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