District Food Pickup program helps community members

Anyone 18 and under can receive grab-and-go breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday at Mills or San Mateo (shown above).

San Mateo Union High School District

Anyone 18 and under can receive grab-and-go breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday at Mills or San Mateo (shown above).

Allison Cohen, Staff Reporter

San Mateo Union High School District
Anyone 18 and under can receive grab-and-go breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday at Mills (shown above) or San Mateo.

Amid unprecedented times and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD) has been a resource to support students and families who may be struggling to get food on the table. Beginning March 16, free meals have been accessible to anyone 18 or under Monday through Friday at Mills and San Mateo. These meals are intended to help families provide food for their children at a time when they’ve lost important incomes.

Assistant Principal Michele Fichera is proud of the reach of this program as it helps hundreds of community members every day.

“Right before spring break there was a Friday … and they had given out over 500 [meals] across the district at those two sites, so that was pretty substantial,” Fichera said.

The goal of this program has been to help as many people as possible and is a no-strings-attached way for anyone under 18 to access free food. No identification or personal information is needed to benefit. Food assistance programs are available not only through SMUHSD but also through districts across the Bay Area providing similar services.

“It’s pretty cool because … it’s a hard time but you really see the efforts of everybody coming together to try the best that they can to help,” Fichera said.

With the closure of all California public schools for the rest of this academic year and the forced readjustments of students and staff to online schooling, the community is dealing with difficult changes. 

The Food Pickup program was set to end May 1, before news of school closures for the rest of the year. The continuation of this program is uncertain, but a definite possibility.

“Now that school is over … maybe it’ll continue,” Fichera said.

Luckily, Burlingame has always continued the free and reduced lunch program throughout the summer, meaning the school will continue to receive federal funding for food throughout the year, as well as the continued support from other places like the Parents’ Group.

“Normally we provide food also during summer school, so maybe it will go into the summer,” Fichera said.

In a time of confusion and chaos, the Food Pickup program aims to help students and families maintain some consistency in knowing they can access food each week. While many are struggling, it is important that people in the community are aware of the resources available to them and know how to access them.

“We do have resources to help and support and we don’t always know who might need it,” Fichera said.