Santa Ana Unified serves 1 millionth meal amid coronavirus school closures

The Santa Ana Unified School District hit a milestone by serving its one millionth meal to the community amid the coronavirus pandemic.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- The Santa Ana Unified School District hit a milestone by serving its one millionth meal to the community amid school closures prompted by the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday.

Nutrition services workers at Romero-Cruz Academy in Santa Ana celebrated alongside police officers with the Santa Ana Unified School District and the families they serve.

Delia Martinez, a mother of two, was picking up meals Wednesday for seven children, including her own.

"I appreciate the help that they're giving us," Martinez said.

"I haven't bought milk, so they provide with milk, that helps a lot," Martinez added. "That means less visits to the store."

Samuel Vidal is a fifth grader attending the Santa Ana Unified School District. Vidal was there picking up meals with his siblings, cousins and grandmother.

"It really means a lot because sometimes, when we don't have food, we search in Google where we could find food, like in school, and we find this place," Samuel said.

Crews there gave their one millionth meal Wednesday and plan to keep it going.

"Santa Ana, we're here for you three days a week," said crew member Benjamin Zavala.

Nancy Escobar said she loves her job and helping her community as a nutrition services worker.

"I'm really grateful when I see parents telling us, 'Thank you very much. We appreciate it,' and to see their faces, even the students telling us, 'Thank you,"' Escobar said.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 13 sites district-wide provide 130,000 meals a week to anyone under the age of 18, no matter where they live.

Nutrition Services Acting Director Josh Goddard said the need is growing.

"The deeper the economy is closed, the deeper this is going to cut into people's finances, the more harsh of a reality this is going to impact our community," Goddard said. "So, though we're serving a significantly less number of meals due to the closure, we're serving a number that's commensurate with what we serve during the summer time when school is not in session."

Officers Luis Macias and Felix Rivera were excited to give back to the school district they grew up in.

"Knowing that I somehow had a chance to help give food to our kids in this community really feels good," Macias said.

"It's a huge relief off of parents' back to be able to provide that ... I can't imagine what it would've been like if my dad wasn't working, my mom wasn't working," Rivera said.

Guadalupe Uriostegue was there with six of her grandchildren. Speaking in Spanish, Uriostegui told Eyewitness News she had custody of four of them and was grateful to God and the people helping them.

"With this program, we're getting more food and more variety of choices, so we can actually eat and we can get the nutrients that we need to survive this pandemic," said Aaron Torres, one of Uriostegui's grandchildren.

Goddard said U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers allowing for the program were set to expire June 30, so nutrition services staff were advocating for their renewal so families can continue to pick up meals through the summer.
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