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Oceanside Unified School District Honors Our School Lunch Heroes!
Posted 5/1/20

staff distribute mealsWhen schools closed due to COVID-19, the immediate concern for Oceanside Unified School District staff was how to continue meeting our community’s essential needs, including meal service. Since the beginning of school closures, Oceanside Unified School District Nutrition Services has continued to feed our families by ensuring that each child can have up to 15 free meals every week. In honor of School Lunch Heroes Week, we want to take a moment to honor these incredible members of our team. 

“I’m just really proud that even in the rain, our staff is out there providing meals, and we’ll continue doing this until our schools are back in session or in traditional buildings,” Deputy Superintendent Dr. Shannon Soto said. 

The district began serving free breakfast and lunch the Monday after schools closed, but Nutrition Services Director Naomi Shadwell soon sought out a waiver so that the district could put resources that would normally go to after school programs toward serving free supper meals as well. She said this helps parents have “one less thing to worry about at home,” even if they’ve never used our services before and simply need assistance at this time. 

OUSD currently distributes meals to-go at six sites throughout the district on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Our staff has served approximately 365,000 meals since schools closed and counting, made possible through a collaborative effort from security and transportation personnel, Nutrition Services workers prepping meals, many volunteers and more.  

Food insecurity in the area is high – almost 65 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. To keep achieving their aim of removing hunger as a barrier to education, the Nutrition Services team has had to be creative and innovative in figuring out how to estimate the numbers of meals to prepare, transport food between sites, and also adapt to health safety and social distancing requirements. 

Mary Rearick, a Nutrition Services lead, has been serving meals at Mission Elementary. She said she is “very gratified in her work every day” knowing that she gets to keep students fed and support families. 

“It really is a group effort. All schools are working to support the serving sites in one way or another. It’s like operating a big machine,” Rearick said. “It’s all worth it to know that we’re supporting our students in the long run.”

Lucy Samaniego, another lead serving meals at Oceanside High, said that she gets to continue checking in with some of the families she regularly serves during the school year, and that she is proud of the staff collaboration. 

OUSD’s meal services are free to all students, regardless of whether they attend an Oceanside school, and parents or guardians only need to provide a count of the number of children they are picking up meals for. To see a complete list of meal distribution sites throughout San Diego County, visit the San Diego County Office of Education website