News

End of the road for summer school meal deal

District program cut back due to budget constraints

Some local families who have counted on free breakfasts and lunches from the local elementary school district may have to look elsewhere for affordable food this summer.

For more than five years, the Mountain View Whisman School District has offered two free meals a day at its two summer school programs -- both centrally located at Castro and Graham schools. The meals, part of the "Seamless Summer Feeding Program," were served to students attending the academic programs, but anyone in the community under age 18 could also come to the campuses for free food with no questions asked.

But this year, due to budget cuts, the district will have only one summer school site, at Theuerkauf School. Theuerkauf is located near Middlefield Road, far beyond walking distance for most of the Mountain View parents whose children use the supplemental food program.

According to Gail Burke, the district's director of food services, this could mean less food to go around just when poor families need it most.

"It is going to have an affect here," Burke said. "It's nationwide."

Social services providers say local food banks and nonprofits are receiving fewer donations these days, despite a huge increase in families seeking help.

"We will see families showing up at the organizations we partner with and needing more food," said Lynn Crocker, a spokesperson with Second Harvest Food Bank, which provides donations to local food pantries.

Less to go around

Sophia Zalot, district supervisor for food services, said the district used to provide 600 meals a day during the summer. But facing cuts in state support that could total millions of dollars, Mountain View Whisman administrators and trustees decided to reduce the summer school program in order to save the district roughly $60,000, said chief financial officer Craig Goldman.

Zalot has been handing out fliers to local families, letting them know about alternative food programs in the community.

Summer school in the Mountain View Whisman School District has traditionally been an intervention program for students who are at high risk for not meeting grade level requirements. With fewer resources, Goldman said, the district had to reevaluate these programs.

"If you have limited resources you want to use the ones that are most effective," Goldman said.

Although the district has cut back its traditional summer school, it is offering a program at Theuerkauf for special education students. Food services staff will serve both lunch and breakfast there for students and community members under the age of 18.

Burke said she worries this may not be enough as many local families struggle to survive during the economic downturn. The program in the past was ideal for Castro neighborhood families who could walk to campus for free meals.

But now, she said, "They can't afford to get to the new site." Burke said it's "a definite possibility" that the cutbacks will leave some local children with less food.

Where to turn

Mountain View Whisman is not alone in feeling the pinch, according to Crocker of Second Harvest, who said schools throughout the state are cutting back on summer feeding programs.

"It is just something they can't do" anymore, Crocker said.

Each month Second Harvest provides over 11,000 pounds of food to two Mountain View organizations, the Community Services Agency and St. Vincent De Paul at Athanasius, Crocker said. This feeds 1,388 children in Mountain View.

But the number of children needing food appears to be on the rise. Local service providers say there is a higher need for food this year, with more families suffering from the economic downturn and fewer schools offering programs.

The Community Service Agency, one of Second Harvest's partner organizations, has a nutrition center where local residents can shop for food at a low cost five days a week. But food donations are down 20 percent this year, while the number of clients is up 18 percent, according to Maureen Wadiak, CSA's associate director. The agency is hoping for additional donations from community members this year.

"We have always been a lifeline for families even if kids don't go to summer schools," Wadiak said. "This year the situation is bleak."

INFORMATION:

The Seamless Summer Feeding Program will be at Theuerkauf School, located at 1625 San Luis Ave., this summer from June 29 to July 24. Breakfast is served every weekday from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m., and lunch every weekday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

The following organizations are taking food and cash donations to help feed local families:

Second Harvest: (800) 984 3663, www.2ndharvest.net

Community Service Agency: (650) 968-0836, www.csacares.org

St Vincent De Paul at Athanasius (650) 494-6226, www.saintathanasius.com

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Castro Parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Great News! Schools should not be in the business of distributing free food. They should focus on delivering the product they are hired/tasked with delivering….education. One look at the test scores at Castro and Graham will tell the whole story…..the schools are not delivering education.

Leave the free food distribution to the churches and other charitable organizations.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marti
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 26, 2009 at 9:18 pm

I think this Castro parent is missing the reason the lunch programs were started in the first place. A child attending school who does not have food to eat and arrives at school hungry will not do his or her best at learning. The schools are not distributing free food, they are feeding hungry students who would learn better if they not hungry! Sorry this program has to be cut.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by disgusted with lunch food
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 27, 2009 at 12:14 am

I would like to see the school lunch program go back to serving scratch cooking with one choice a day. If you don't like what is on the menu, bring your own lunch. Change the menu on a monthly basis.

The current program is wasteful. The kids have too many choices each day and many times the choice is not available (for many different reasons). They also throw out food every day because they can't get the count right.

In my opinion. . . . the school lunch food is terrible. What normal adult would eat that food everyday? So why would we let our kids eat it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Confused
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 27, 2009 at 9:10 am


Last year the July 18, 2008 edition of the Voice stated:

"The district qualifies for this federal program since more than 50 percent of its students can receive — due to their low-income status — government-funded free or reduced-price lunches during the school year."

This year, The Voice writes:

"Sophia Zalot, district supervisor for food services, said the district used to provide 600 meals a day during the summer. But facing cuts in state support that could total millions of dollars, Mountain View Whisman administrators and trustees decided to reduce the summer school program in order to save the district roughly $60,000, said chief financial officer Craig Goldman."

For the past five years that totals $300,000.

So which is it? Does this paper just suck up anything the schools say as fact without further research? Or are these paragraphs just poorly written? I have trouble understanding why the paper doesn't check its past reporting. The public is growing tired of just lapping up the official line regurgitated by the Voice, when the economy is in a recession and unemployment is at nearly 10 percent.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 27, 2009 at 11:23 am

You can save even more money. Eliminate ZALOT's position.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 27, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Free meals to anyone under 18 that is a resident of Mountain View?

600 free meals a day?

The District paid for that?

I need a home, will someone buy me one?

LOW INCOME FAMILIES SHOULD APPLY FOR FOOD STAMPS. . . OR GET A JOB.

STOP HAVING KIDS YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO FEED.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Castro Parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 27, 2009 at 2:53 pm

As my name states, I am a parent of a student at Castro Elementary, one of the schools that give out free breakfast/lunch. I have witnessed the distribution of the food and there are a few things I feel obligate to share with the tax-paying public.

1. The current breakfast menu at Castro includes sweetened cereal bars and chocolate milk. By "sweetened cereal bars" I mean the colored sugar-coated junk that sensible parents do not buy at the grocery store……but the school district, in their infinite wisdom, sees fit to feed these kids. I'm not kidding or exaggerating…they feed the kids junk! Of course there are other options on the menu but what 5-year old kid is going to choose orange juice and corn flakes when there is chocolate milk and sugar cereal available. I'm sorry Marti, you are wrong……the school district has no business providing meals to these kids.


2. If kids are truly hungry (which I'm not convinced is the case) they should be fed a sensible and nutritious meal of a oatmeal, fresh fruit and milk. Again, if these kids were truly hungry they would eat whatever was put in front of them. Having witnessed the food distribution first hand, I can tell you that these kids do not appear to be mal-nourished. In fact the opposite is more true. From what I have witnessed in the cafeteria, many of the kids choosing the sugar cereal bars were overweight and a handful were very overweight……wonder if this has anything to do with the junk they were being fed? …..certainly none of them appeared to be skipping many meals.


3. I'm sure there are kids/families in Mountain View that depend on free meals to feed themselves. I'm completely in favor of helping these people. I believe the way to do so is to support and coordinate with churches and related organizations (Second Harvest, St. Vincent de Paul etc etc) who can perform this work with volunteers and donated food. The school district that is barely educating our kids has ABSOLUTLY NO BUSINESS using scarce funds to pay employees salaries and buy food (much of it junk food) to give away for free. Also, last year the Voice reported that the parents of these kids were fed as well….who paid for this???? Parents and tax-payers should be demanding accountability from the school board. I am.

I attend a church that operates a meal program for the homeless and I donate money to support this. I've loaned money to people to pay rent and put food on their table. I've got nothing against the poor…..I've got a big problem with a school district that diverts scarce funds from music, art and physical education programs to these "do-good" programs…..especially when they do more harm than good.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by student
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 27, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Why do you think all the food service employees are over weight.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lee
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 28, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Castro Parent makes some excellent points.

The program appears redundant and wasteful and works against the goals it tries to acheive by supplying junk food to kids who need healthy food. Where does all the money go? Who is making the profit off this? How much could the district be saving by cleaning up the free meal programs? Or is that just it? Is the junk food being supplied by the lowest bidder here? Some one is always making a profit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by School Mom
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 28, 2009 at 6:24 pm

My son ate many snacks and lunches at the middle school when he first started until I saw his weight leap up and his body fat percentage increase. It took over a year to get him back down. I'm just surprised that the schools allow this kind of food to be served to begin with. It's unimaginable that no one in charge does anything about it. Not the teachers, not the principals, not the distict office. Yet you never see them eating this crap. Find me one that will stand up, say the food is healthy, and eat it for two weeks straight as did that man with McDonalds for a documentary. They won't, but they expect kids to. It's the equivalent of child abuse over time. There is so much wrong with this. The kind of people that can turn a blind eye to this need to look for work somewhere else. I agree with Casto Parent above that the truth will come out if only healthy food is offered.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Sophia Zalot is the District Food Service Supervisor. She needs to make some changes because parents are starting to complain. I hear moms complain about the food the schools serve and believe me I hear it a lot. I want my child to eat healthy also. Nutrition is very important for the brain.

The district focused more on feeding low-income families rather than providing healthy meals.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by School Dad
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2009 at 9:28 am

According to the website journalism.org…. "The central purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society." This is followed by nine core principles the first two of which are: 1. Journalism's first obligation is to the truth. 2. Its first loyalty is to citizens.

Given this, I believe it is the job of the Voice to get some answers on this subject. Like "Confused" above, I'm afraid that the Voice is simply regurgitating what they hear from the school board and not digging deeper.

I'd like to see the Voice ask some tough questions of the Superintendent and the CFO.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm

1. every public school district food services program has to comply with a ton of rules, regulations restrictions and requirements...I am guessing most of those are from the fed and/or state which provides the funding. the MVWSD food services staff have worked very hard to make sure they are in complete compliance with the nutritional requirements of foods served. so the FIRST thing you'd have to look at is what are all the requirements that determine what can and can't be served. you and me have complete freedom over what we make for breakfast, lunch and dinner for our kids. the food services staff do NOT have that freedom.

2. that said, the food services staff has put considerable effort into introducing new and healthy foods to students, foods that many if not most students have never had before...like cottage cheese with fruit? hummus dip with veggies?

3. school lunches always include choices of fresh fruit and fresh green salad

4. before you trash the program, go straight to the source and talk to the food services manager, Gail Burke. she is competent, personable, and I have no doubt that she does the best she can within the considerable constraints of the system.

5. good luck getting any answers from the DO! the Supt, CFO and trustees are establishing a reputation for being either unwilling or unable to give a straight and complete answer on just about anything.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MVWSD employee
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2009 at 2:55 pm

My daughter attends Bubb Elementary School. I have seen the lunch display in the lunch room and it is pitiful. I expected to see more food. It was a huge disappointment.

Many times my daughter makes her choice from the menu only to find out they didn't serve her choice that day. So she doesn't eat that day and comes home very moody. I am appalled how many times this has happened.

I have also noticed most kids wisely bring their own lunch.

But on "New York" pizza day, the lunch crowd line doubles. Hmm.

Parents . . . . . .When school starts, feel free to check out the lunch room at your child's school during lunch hour and let's hear what you think.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2009 at 5:46 pm

This story comes out every summer. Nothing changes. Good luck on getting anyone at the District Office to come out and make a stand for change. The word on the street is that the district can actually make money off food programs. I doubt they're losing any. But we will never know, since real journalism requires real research. The editor, however, seems to take more time in policing up the messages boards rather than supervising his reporters for better quality reporting. Hint: If the reporters write a solid piece of journalism, the invective on the boards might be reduced.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2009 at 4:14 am

I don't think schools should be in the business of food programs, but then again parents have to work, both parents, knowing how much you have to earn to live on the area, and the rent and everything else that it takes live here. I look at it this way, maybe these kids it is the only time that they can eat, granted a breakfast bar but at least is better then chips, candy and other junk food. If you want to help donate fruit or veggies, grow a small garden,doesn't have to be huge, one row of crop, plant a fruit tree, turn some of the parks and open space into food production, remember we were the Valley of the Hearts Delight. Lets show we have a big caring heart


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