Volunteer Vivian Lam puts together a meal kit in the cafeteria of Garfield Elementary School, one of several locations throughout Oakland where the OUSD's free meal program is available. Credit: Pete Rosos

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Updated Sept. 4: This story has been updated to reflect that all Oakland children are now eligible for free meals, not just those enrolled on Oakland Unified School District campuses.

As the school year kicks off this week, the Oakland Unified School District is providing resources for families to help them manage some of the complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. OUSD families can read below to learn how to receive Chromebooks, internet hotspots, and free meals from the district.

Technology 

All OUSD schools are beginning the year with virtual instruction, and it’s likely to be the main way students learn this year. The school district has committed to providing free laptops and internet hotspots to every student who needs them through the Oakland Undivided campaign, but there have been delays.

Oakland Unified School District officials expect to begin distributing computers the week of Aug. 24. Until then, individual campuses will lend technology to families. Parents can contact their school for more details about device pick-up dates and times. 

To qualify for a free laptop or hotspot, families can complete the campaign’s technology survey, or call the district’s technology hotline at 510-866-2260.  

YouthBeat, an Oakland non-profit organization that trains teens in film, animation, and other media, created how-to videos in English, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Khmer explaining how to set up hotspots from the district.

Meals 

Over the summer, OUSD fed thousands of children every week, including students in private and charter schools. The meal program is continuing into the fall, and all Oakland children 18 and younger are eligible: this includes students enrolled in OUSD schools, charter schools, private schools, those who are homeschooled, and those who are too young to be in school. Students in the district’s young adult program are also eligible.

On Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., families can pick up enough meals for three to four days at 22 school campuses in Oakland

OUSD meal program pick-up locations

North and West Oakland: Hoover Elementary, Sankofa United Elementary, West Oakland Middle 

East Oakland: Allendale Elementary, Bella Vista Elementary, Bret Harte Middle, Cleveland Elementary, Garfield Elementary, La Escuelita, Manzanita SEED/Manzanita Community, Oakland High 

Deep East Oakland: Castlemont High, Coliseum College Preparatory Academy, Elmhurst United Middle, Esperanza/Korematsu Elementary, Fremont High School, Frick Impact Academy, Horace Mann Elementary, International Community School/Think College Now, Life Academy/United for Success, Madison Park Upper, New Highland/Rise Academy

Families must wear face coverings to the meal sites, and children do not have to be present at the pick-up location.

The district is also looking for community members to help give out meals every week. To volunteer, you have to be healthy, younger than 65, prepared to interact with students and families, and have not, to your knowledge, been around anyone who has contracted COVID-19. People who want to volunteer can fill out a form on the district’s website.

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Ashley McBride reports on education equity for The Oaklandside. She covered the 2019 Oakland Unified School District teachers’ strike as a breaking news reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. More recently, she was an education reporter for the San Antonio Express-News where she covered several local school districts, charter schools, and the community college system. McBride earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, has held positions at the Palm Beach Post and the Poynter Institute, and is a recent Hearst Journalism Fellow.