A guide to free meals for children in Southwest Riverside County during school shutdowns

Temecula Elementary School student Elias Delamarre, 9, arrives with his mom at Temecula Elementary School to pick up a school lunch meal during a drive-up meal distribution operation by TVUSD while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, March 20. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

The novel coronavirus pandemic has shuttered California schools for the foreseeable future.

School districts in the Southwest Riverside County region began to announce closures on Friday, with some initially stating plans to shut down through the end of March or early April.

Then, by the end of the day, Riverside County Public Health Officer Cameron Kaiser made it an official order — schools were not to reopen until April 6.

On Monday, the closure was extended out even further, to April 30. And by Tuesday evening, California Gov. Gavin Newsom was suggesting that schools may be shut down for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year and not reopen again until this fall.

And for many families, that posed a problem: some families rely on free and reduced lunch programs to keep their children fed during the school year. With no school, would that mean no food as well?

But local districts quickly moved to set up plans to keep feeding students during the ever-evolving school closures. Here is how each district in Valley News’ coverage area is providing meals to students with school campuses closed:

Temecula Valley Unified School District:

Beginning April 6, families can pick up breakfast and lunch via a drive-thru setup at a central location at Temecula Elementary School, 41951 Moraga Rd, between 10 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, according to TVUSD spokesperson Laura Boss.

The district asks that students be present in the car when picking up meals. Boss says state requirements dictate that the district target advertisement of the program to campuses that have 50% or more students who are English learners, on free or reduced lunch or are foster youth. Three schools — Margarita Middle School, Vail Elementary School and Temecula Elementary School — meet those standards, but any TVUSD family can participate in the meal pickup program, Boss clarified.

Murrieta Valley Unified School District:

Murrieta schools began providing breakfast and lunch, both handed out together, on March 17 and will continue to do so at least until March 27, which was originally scheduled as the last day of school before spring break.

“Nutrition Services will be offering a drive thru distribution of daily “Grab-and-Go” meals, free of charge for enrolled students, TK-12,” MVUSD spokesperson Monica Gutierrez said. “Students will need to be present to receive meals, and each Murrieta Valley USD enrolled student and children in their household, 18 years and younger may take a meal which includes lunch and a breakfast item for the following morning.” Some of the meals may require home heating or preparation, Gutierrez said.

Meals will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at Avaxat Elementary School, 24300 Las Brisas; Dorothy McElhinney Middle School, 35125 Briggs Road; Thompson Middle School, 24040 Hayes Avenue; and Warm Springs Middle School, 39245 Calle de Fortuna.

Lake Elsinore Unified School District:

A total of 10 schools in Wildomar and Lake Elsinore will begin providing meals on Monday, March 23. The meals will be available to all children 18 and under, not just students. A sack lunch and breakfast will be offered together through a drive-thru, curbside pickup service, and children must be present to receive meals. The district asks that all occupants remain in their vehicles, although it will offer walk-up services to children without regular transportation.

Meals will be available 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at Cottonwood Canyon Elementary School, 32100 Lost Road, Lake Elsinore; Donald Graham Elementary School, 35450 Frederick St, Wildomar; Earl Warren Elementary School, 41221 Rosetta Canyon Rd, Lake Elsinore; Elsinore Elementary School, 512 W. Sumner St, Lake Elsinore; Luiseño School, 13500 Mountain Rd., Corona; Machado Elementary School, 15150 Joy St, Lake Elsinore; Railroad Canyon Elementary School, 1300 Mill St, Lake Elsinore; Wildomar Elementary School, 21575 Palomar Rd, Wildomar; Withrow Elementary School, 30100 Audelo St, Lake Elsinore; and Lakeland Village School, 18730 Grand Ave, Lake Elsinore.

Hemet Unified School District:

Hemet schools began providing meals to all children under 18 on Monday, March 16, and will continue to do so at least until April 3.

The district said it would provide meals at every school location from 11 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, with a drive-thru and walk-thru setup.

“For those driving, HUSD asks that you stay in your car and bagged meals will be provided for each child present. If you have students at multiple schools, you only need to visit one location,” Hemet Unified said in a statement.

San Jacinto Unified School District:

San Jacinto schools began providing meals to all children under 18 on Monday, March 16, and did not specify an end date for their program.

The district said breakfast and lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at all elementary schools; at San Jacinto High School, 500 Idyllwild Dr; and at Desert Palms Mobile Home Park, 1097 N. State St; with drive-thru pickup. All children must be present to receive meals.

Menifee Union School District:

Menifee elementary schools began providing meals to all children under 18 on Wednesday, March 18.

The district plans to continue offering the meals at least until April 3. Adults may drive up with children in the car, or students may walk up to a designated location at school sites where the meals are available.

The meals will be offered from 11 a.m. to noon at Quail Valley Elementary School, 23757 Canyon Heights Dr; Freedom Crest Elementary School, 29282 Menifee Rd; and Ridgemoor Elementary School, 25455 Ridgemoor Rd.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.