All children 18 and under who live within driving distance of Denair Middle School are invited to participate in a free breakfast, lunch and supper program this summer. Children do not have to attend Denair schools to participate and there is no income or other eligibility restrictions.
The meals are prepared by the food services staff of the Denair Unified School District. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, food is distributed in a drive-through system in the middle school parking lot.
Meals are available Monday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, breakfast, lunch and supper is provided for that day. On Thursdays, enough food is distributed in two bags for three meals a day per child through the weekend, said Kim Fuentez, Denair’s food services coordinator.
Between 150 and 175 free meals are being provided daily, but Fuentez expects that number to rise.
“We believe there will be an even larger increase as families become more aware of our continued service,” she said. “The district office has been sending out robocalls and posting on our social media to get the word out that we’re still here and ready to serve our community.”
Each meal includes fresh fruit, vegetables and milk. This week’s menu features hamburgers, deli sandwiches, chicken nuggets, pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pretzel dogs, cereal and Pop Tarts.
“Everything is pre-packaged, nutritious and delicious,” Fuentez said.
The food services staff includes Fuentez and four employees who work about five hours a day Monday through Thursday preparing the meals. She said it’s gratifying to provide food for deserving families, but the Denair staff misses the daily interaction they typically would have with students.
“This year, that’s not an option,” Fuentez said. “We miss our students. They are the reason my staff and I work in school nutrition. Thankfully, we are still able to provide meals for our students and assist our families, which is what we do best!”
She said the reactions from the children and their parents make all the work worth it.
“One child told one of our ladies he was happy because his tummy would get full,” Fuentez said. “Others have made my staff little painted rocks and pictures to show their appreciation. As for our parents, it goes beyond saying how much they appreciate the help Denair Unified is giving them during this crisis. I’ve experienced parents crying. Heck, I’ve cried with them.
“Food Service is just that: service.”
The program began June 1 and will last through July, Fuentez said. It is a collaboration of the Denair Unified School District and the California Department of Education using federal grant money. For more information, go to http://culinarycoyote.com or call the Food Service Department at (209) 632-7514.