Yu Chem Li packing bags of food for OUSD families
Volunteer Yu Chem Li, stacks various meal kits on a table at Garfiled Elementary School as part of OUSD's free meals program. Credit: Pete Rosos

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The Oakland Unified School District is now providing free home-delivered meals to families. 

The district has made millions of meals for students during the pandemic, but up until now families have had to pick up food at school campuses. School leaders decided to shift to the delivery option in order to better support students in distance learning, and because some families don’t feel comfortable going to a school campus.

Families can sign up for the new free delivery service by filling out an online request form, also available in Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic

To qualify, households must have at least one student enrolled in a district-run school and must provide that student’s OUSD identification number. But all children in a qualifying home will receive meals, even if they’re not enrolled in OUSD schools. The once-a-week deliveries will include a week’s worth of ready-to-eat meals for every child in the home: seven breakfasts, seven lunches, and five suppers. And twice a month, the delivery will also include a box of fresh produce.

OUSD hired two dozen drivers, who are mostly out-of-work parents, to distribute the 12,000 boxes per week across Oakland. On Mondays and Tuesdays, deliveries go to the West Oakland and downtown areas, and on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, families in East Oakland receive their meals and produce. 

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced schools to close last March, OUSD began providing free meals to its students for pickup. Many OUSD students rely on breakfast and lunch from their school to be able to eat. Between March 16 and July 30, the district gave out more than 4 million meals

The district still plans to offer meal pick-up at 13 schools: Sankofa United Elementary, West Oakland Middle School, Allendale Elementary, Bella Vista Elementary, Cleveland Elementary, La Escuelita Elementary, Manzanita SEED/Manzanita Community School (Manzanita only offers meals on Mondays), Bret Harte Middle School, Coliseum College Preparatory Academy, Elmhurst United Middle School, Frick United, and Life Academy/United for Success.

All students 18 or younger, and older students who are part of OUSD’s Young Adult Program, are eligible to pick-up meals at a school site, regardless of what school they attend. Distribution is on Mondays and Thursdays between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Ashley McBride writes about education equity for The Oaklandside. Her work covers Oakland’s public district and charter schools. Before joining The Oaklandside in 2020, Ashley was a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and the San Francisco Chronicle as a Hearst Journalism Fellow, and has held positions at the Poynter Institute and the Palm Beach Post. Ashley earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.