This starts as a letter from Oakland Unified School District’s Chief Systems and Services Officer, Preston Thomas.
Hello Oakland Unified Community,
Feed as many hungry students as possible. That is the mission that drives an incredible team of OUSD staff and community partners who serve Oakland families at 12 food distribution sites twice a week. Oakland is powerful when we rally around a mission, focus on data, and pursue it. As of Monday, we have served 1.5 million meals (and counting). Click here for the food dashboard.
In the course of this continuing meal service, the raw scope of city-wide inequities and food insecurity in our community is made clear. In a normal month, we know that people struggle to get the food they need. Families are streaming in to our distribution sites to get the food they need for their children and families. The economic realities of our families are getting much worse. Since OUSD closed for in person instruction, 46,861 people have applied for unemployment in the city of Oakland.
An empty stomach is louder than any lesson plan. We simply cannot expect to educate a student whose basic needs are not being met.
That is why OUSD embraces a community schools model, doing our best to provide comprehensive services for our students. That is why we have always provided a summer meal program. That is why we invested in our Central Kitchen that will transform our delivery model to OUSD schools. That is why we are taking this opportunity to tackle food insecurity, including food deserts, in a different way.
We need to stay in learning mode because many of our assumptions and routines have been upended. We need to accept the uncertainty, hold our values, ensure safety, and pursue what we want for our kids and community.
OUSD will continue food distribution throughout the summer.
We will use the same model of meal service that is currently being provided (same days, same hours). We will be opening 24 sites for our summer meals program. Our goal is that no OUSD student should live more than half a mile from a food site. Even with the 12 distribution sites open today, there are still 18,178 families that would have to walk more than a mile round trip to get food from OUSD (see map below). Our proposed sites were carefully selected, in collaboration with the City of Oakland, using data to identify the most convenient locations for our families that qualify for Free and Reduced Price meals. We look forward to finalizing and announcing the final sites as soon as possible. To help us reach more underserved families and increase participation, Uber has donated round trip rides to our food distribution sites for about 2,500 families and Lyft for about 50 families for an initial 4-week period. Together with these generous partners, we will assess ongoing need.
As we look toward reopening schools this fall, there are a number of lessons from food service that will help us:
Partnership is powerful: It has never been more clear that we have to work together. We are partnering closely with city and county agencies. Lunch Assist and the Alameda County Food Bank helped us expand our reach and adopt best practices. We opened our warehouse and Central Kitchen to our partners to improve operations for all. While we were focused on immediate food needs, our philanthropic partners were really helpful in seeing other problems such as the emerging for diapers, feminine hygiene products, and unemployment support.
Stay grounded in science and data: Our teams created thoughtful analysis using the best science and data available. It helped us find the best 12 distribution sites and create the safety protocols on which we could rely when something – like an exposure – happened.
Invest in workers through training: Our front line workers are the key to success. Throughout the process, our staff really led the efforts. It was their innovation, constant feedback, and focus on getting better that led to some of our biggest improvements.
Stay humble and focus on implementation: We concentrated on making sure our 12 sites were getting better after every food service. Our senior leaders worked on sites in partnership with teams to identify what works from frontline workers. We constantly focused on learning from each other and other districts. Most of all, we know that we can always be better and that our community deserves the best.
Uniting to embrace uncertainty and opportunity.
In order to meet the challenges ahead, we must accept the reality of some very uncomfortable uncertainty going forward. Guidance and projections from public health experts will continue to change as more information becomes available. There is no road map for meeting these challenges. We will have to learn quickly from each other and adapt.
I am confident that a united Oakland will continue to rise to the challenge. If we simply fall back into our old patterns then we will recreate what was before. That is not good enough for our students, families and staff.
I am committed to standing in that complexity in order to create something of which we can all be proud.
Please share your thoughts on this message
Chief Systems and Services Officer
This post based on a press release from OUSD to Zennie62Media, Inc.