Education / Schools

Despite closures, Hollister School District distributes student meals

Seven elementary and middle schools provide breakfast, lunch and snacks.
Cars line up at the Calaveras Elementary School bus loop to receive meals during the COVID-19 school closure. Photo by Patty Lopez Day.
Cars line up at the Calaveras Elementary School bus loop to receive meals during the COVID-19 school closure. Photo by Patty Lopez Day.
Photo by Patty Lopez Day.
Photo by Patty Lopez Day.
Boxes of food and prepared meals—including fresh fruit, milk, juices, and snacks—go out to 200 students daily. Photo by Patty Lopez Day.
Boxes of food and prepared meals—including fresh fruit, milk, juices, and snacks—go out to 200 students daily. Photo by Patty Lopez Day.

Though schools within the Hollister School District have been closed since March 16 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, they’ve still been serving students food for free.

Every day, a drive-thru meal pickup service takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Calaveras Elementary, Cerra Vista Elementary, Ladd Lane Elementary, Maze Middle, Rancho San Justo Middle, R. O. Hardin Elementary and Sunnyslope Elementary. Enough snacks and lunch for the day, as well as breakfast for the following day, are provided for every kid in the car, no questions asked.

BenitoLink spoke to Karen Kulpa, a four-year student nutrition worker at Calaveras currently serving as a drive-thru food distributor.

“We are not volunteering, we are getting paid and are only required to do this if we feel comfortable doing it,” Kulpa said. “We’re certified food handlers so we know the steps to take to keep the public safe; using everything we’ve been taught—sanitize, hand wash, and sanitize and hand wash some more—as well as social distancing.”

Kulpa is originally from Southern California, where she worked as a market bakery manager for 30 years. She moved to Hollister after retiring.

On March 20, Kulpa distributed food for the fifth day in a row with coworker Eva Hernandez and additional personnel from Maze Middle School. Three cars pulled up to receive their meals as she spoke with BenitoLink; some said “hello,” “thank you” and drove off, while others stopped to speak about how their children have messages for their teachers, or how they appreciate having this as a form of connection to the school.

“In our county, there are lots of children depending on food from the school,” Kulpa said. “Our main objective is to feed the kids and to try and keep some normalcy in their day. We love it when they come by. We miss our kids.”

At the Calaveras school site alone, workers pack, prepare and distribute 200 breakfast and 200 lunches per day. On March 20, enough bananas and carrots were offered to drive-thru families to last them through the weekend.

“Fresh fruit, low-sugar snacks, milk and even whole grain sandwiches, all available and easily accessible,” said Maryam Wafa, parent of two Calaveras students. “My kids are less likely to reach into the pantry for chips and cookies. It also reminds them of their routine at school.”

Wafa said that one good thing about the schools continuing to serve meals to students is that “circumstances may prevent parents from going out to get fresh produce for their kids. Keeping this drive-thru experience helps them get their nutrition in an easy and hygienic low-contact way.”

The Hollister School District is extending its school closure through April 12, but food distribution will continue. And on Wednesdays and Thursdays, besides being able to pick up food, parents will also be able to pick up learning packets by grade at grab-and-go tables at all school sites, except HDLA and Gavilan Hills.

 

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Patty Lopez Day

Patty Lopez Day,  graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2005 with a B.A. in English and Chicana/o Studies, and holds an A.A. in English from Evergreen and San Jose City College.  A writer and journalist she's covered  local news, politics,  education, immigration, sports and travel for print media having articles published in several Bay Area newspapers and magazines.  Born and raised in Santa Clara County she has called Hollister home since 2018.