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Federal Waiver Discontinued, AUSD Families Will Go Back to Paying for Food

One type of AUSD meal provided during COVID-19 school dismissal; courtesy of AUSD.


Alhambra , CA

Students from the four cities that encompass the Alhambra Unified School District – Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park and Rosemead – will return to the normal lunch program when classes begin on Aug. 12.

This means qualifying families will receive free or reduced priced meals, but those who do not fall into the lower-income categories will have to begin paying for meals. The district is concerned that families who have been negatively financially impacted by COVID-19 will not be able to feed their kids.

From March to July, some children who were being fed by the district were not actually district students. Under the federal U.S. Department of Agriculture emergency feeding waiver that has allowed Alhambra Unified to waive eligibility requirements for free meals, the district was feeding all children under the age of 18 if they were in the vehicle during the drive-through pick-up.

The emergency waiver has not been extended, and these non-AUSD children will have to find a new source of food in the fall. Alhambra Unified said superintendents from San Gabriel Valley School Districts have put AUSD, Garvey, Rosemead and other adjacent districts on a list of those school systems most in jeopardy due to food insecurity.

“Not being able to distribute free meals to all students in a pandemic is a crisis for our families and a logistical nightmare for districts. This will impact hungry kids and scared parents trying to make ends meet,” Alhambra Unified Superintendent Denise R. Jaramillo said in a press release.

According to AUSD, over 240,000 free meals were distributed to K-12 students during school closures, which began on March 19. More than 70% of the district’s student were eligible for free or reduced-fee meals last year.

With the California Employment Development Department reporting 9.3 million unemployment claims processed during the pandemic, it is highly possible more of Alhambra Unified School District’s families will qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.

While the number of students who qualify might have gone up, the district is making a “best guess” at how many students it will serve. The food and nutrition services will use a normal school year’s numbers to estimate the amount of food to prepare, but plan meals with flexibility – cold sandwiches with a long shelf-life or frozen items to be warmed at home, for example.

“This is very new and unprecedented to feed school meals at curbside while we are not providing all free meals,” AUSD Food and Nutrition executive director Vivien Watts said, “We are anticipating less participation. However, we are hoping to feed 30 to 40 percent of enrollment.”

Total enrollment of Alhambra Unified is about 16,600 students, making 30 to 40 percent of the student body 5,000 to 6,600 students as a jumping-off point.

Nutrition is one of the required components of the district’s state-mandated 2020-2021 COVID-19 plan. During any school year, the district participates in the School Breakfast, National School Lunch and After School Supper programs.

During this pandemic, Watts said the district is providing breakfast and lunch, but the supper program is pending for the fall. The meal selection will be more varied that this spring and summer’s emergency food pick up, she said.

The fall plan is that student meals will be distributed at all school sites from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Unlike the summer, parents must pick up their children’s meals at each student’s designated school, instead of the select locations opened by the district.

Federal guidelines dictate how much each family needs to pay, based on their household income for the coming school year. Guidelines with application information is posted here.

AUSD no longer mails forms to parents. Each household must seek and fill out the application.

An application is not needed if the household receives an electronic notification from AUSD with the student’s name on it, saying they qualify for various reasons, including a family member receives CalFresh, CalWorks or FDPIR benefits. If you do not receive this notice and believe your student qualifies, contact Food and Nutrition Services.

Families can apply for free or reduced-price meals at any time during the year.

Contact AUSD Food and Nutrition Services at 626-943-6590 for issues. Contact AUSD food service technician Kathy Mach or call 626-943-6590 for a free or reduced-price meal application.

Alhambra and the San Gabriel Valley have a few other meal-assistance options at the moment.

Through Aug. 7, the City of Alhambra’s Parks and Recreation department is serving “Grab ‘n’ Go” lunches and snacks at four local parks for children under 18. A form is needed, and verification is randomly checked, as per law demands. Get the form and see the info here.

Alhambra Teachers Association (ATA) is collecting food at their office at 3030 W. Main St, every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in August, and are working with AUSD and the City of Alhambra to make a large food distribution at the end of August.

ATA is working with Worldwide Produce, who are donating milk and produce. Most recently they donated 96 gallons of milk and 96 boxes, each at 36-pounds, of produce, to be handed out with a bag of dry goods.

Alhambra Teachers Association president Tammy Scorcia said they donate food to the American Legion Post 397 in Monterey Park for their distribution. Text 626-692-4918 for more information about their food bank.

The Asian Youth Center (AYC) has its Emergency Food Program for local families. Through L.A. Regional Food Bank and local donations, AYC is able to distribute by appointment. Call 626-537-0954 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday to make an appointment.

The First Baptist Church of Alhambra is still doing weekly food distribution from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday. Shifts for those who wish to volunteer – Pastor Matt Barnes posts weekly on Alhambra-related Facebook pages there is always a need for volunteers – begin at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Barnes most recently shared in a video the group was preparing food for 300 to 400 families. When there is an overstock of food they cannot keep – this Thursday was pork, chicken and chili – he will post on the Aid for Alhambra page for a first-come-first-served distribution.

L.A. Regional Food Bank, L.A. County Parks and Rec and L.A. County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis will be distributing food in East Los Angeles from 9 a.m. to noon on Aug. 5 at Belvedere Park. See the details here.

Use L.A. County’s food resource finder to find farmers markets, food banks and information about applying for financial assistance.

Other food resources:

Apply for CalFresh, California’s “food stamps” in the form of a debit card.

Apply for all of Los Angeles County’s social and financial resources – cash assistance, job services, disability assistance, homeless services and more – including CalFresh.

For those who are low-income and pregnant, with very young children, and other similar situations, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program could help if you qualify.

For those with elderly family members who live alone or with other elderly people, the cities of Pasadena and Rosemead are participating in Great Plates Delivered, a program bringing three meals per day from local restaurants to those who cannot leave their homes. See eligibility and apply here.

The City of Alhambra says the Joselyn Senior Center food program is a delivery-only program, run by Intervale Senior Services at the WYCA. Call 626-458-4455 for appointments and 626-214-9443 with questions.

The L.A. County Office of Immigrant Affairs has many COVID-19 resources for the immigrant and undocumented population.


This article was updated on 8/1 to correct a title.

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