LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Unified School District announced that as of Monday, it has provided 100 million meals to students and community members in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Today we are providing our 100 millionth meal to students and families in the communities we serve," Superintendent Austin Beutner said. "It's impossible to overstate the significance of that milestone. We knew the need would be great and we stepped up to do what we can to help."
Beutner visited the Grab & Go Food Center at Garfield High School to mark what the district called "the somber milestone."
According to the LAUSD, 80% of its students come from families who live in poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately caused job losses among them.
When the pandemic began, the district began providing meals to any student or community member in need. It also distributed 19 million supplies, including diapers, personal care items, athletic equipment and computers.
Sixty-three Grab & Go Food Centers across Los Angeles provide three meals per person between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. On Fridays, meals are provided for Saturday and Sunday.
Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, called the Grab & Go program "a serious lifeline to so many students and families in need during these very difficult times."
"The 100 million meal milestone represents a truly extraordinary effort by Los Angeles Unified and it's important that this program carries on for the duration of this crisis so that no student in Los Angeles goes hungry," she said. "It wouldn't be possible without the hard-working food service workers who are putting these millions of meals together."
The program was funded with $32 million in donations to L.A. Students Most in Need, a charitable fund that Beutner created as a safety net for the school community.
"Fortunately, Los Angeles Unified has been joined in this effort by businesses, individuals and philanthropic organizations who understand the need," he said. "This nation-leading effort is a great reminder of what can be accomplished when we all work together to help those who need it most."
The district will continue providing food to families and students until classrooms reopen.
"Almost a year into the pandemic, our neighbors remain vulnerable. Children and their families worry about where the next bag of groceries will come from. Despite the heroic efforts of Los Angeles Unified, food insecurity remains a real threat to many thousands of our fellow Angelenos," Beutner said.
LAUSD officials compared the 100 million meal milestone to giving a meal to every person in Germany and Switzerland combined, or the number of people that visit Disneyland in five years.
"While 100 million meals is a testament to the efforts of thousands of my colleagues who have been working tirelessly in difficult circumstances, it is also a stark reminder that families across Los Angeles are suffering," Beutner said.
"Almost a year into the pandemic, our neighbors remain vulnerable. Children and their families worry about where the next bag of groceries will come from. Despite the heroic efforts of Los Angeles Unified, food insecurity remains a real threat to many thousands of our fellow Angelenos."
More information about the Grab & Go centers, including a list of locations, can be viewed at https://achieve.lausd.net/foodcenter.