Coronavirus: Echo Park volunteer organization steps up to serve boxed meals to LAUSD students amid outbreak

ECHO PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Dream Center in Echo Park is stepping up to help not only the less fortunate, but also students without school meals amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Nearly 900 campuses across the Los Angeles Unified School District closed beginning Monday to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Monica Lopez's young daughter attends an LAUSD school and will miss out on school lunches for the next two weeks. They stopped by the Dream Center Monday to pick up a meal.

"I just wanted her to experience what's going on," said Lopez, who was a former student in the district. "I've never seen LAUSD shut down."

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LAUSD had originally announced plans to open 40 resource centers across the region to provide supervision as well as meals for students who do not have access to proper nutrition at home.

But Monday night, district officials said after talking with health officials, they determined they could not safely open the centers. Instead, the district will open 60 Grab & Go Food Centers. The centers will open starting Wednesday, March 18, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Each child will be allowed to take home two meals from the centers. A map of the Grab & Go Food Centers is available here.

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The Dream Center expects the meals they served on Monday alone to double from 1,500 up to 3,000. Though, unlike a typical day, each meal is grab-and-go to practice social distancing in their cafeteria area.

"But those are the times that we are in. I think for the next eight weeks, we are just going to stay open because this might be the last resort people have, and that's the reality of what we're dealing with right now," said Matthew Barnett, pastor at the Dream Center.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said he and school leaders are following the guidance of public health experts to prevent the spread of coronavirus, though officials have made clear that there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the school district.

If the school closures in Los Angeles last for longer than two weeks, the Dream Center tells Eyewitness News that they'll continue providing meals to help bridge the gap.

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