From warehouse to table: A look inside the L.A. school district’s huge meal distribution operation amid coronavirus

Jesus Carrillo loads basketballs to be distributed with meal bags to children at the LAUSD Procurement Services Center in Pico Rivera.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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Although campuses are closed, the Los Angeles school district has become the largest distributor of meals for the hungry in the state, giving food not only to students, but to anyone who shows up — no questions asked, except: How much do you need?

The mammoth operation has given out about 10 million “grab-and-go” meals since March 18 from 63 campuses in the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District, partnering with the Red Cross and the regional food bank.

In one day more than 26,000 gallons of milk, 219,000 boxes of cereal, 27,525 pounds of carrots, 50 tons of fruit and countless turkey sausages will be given away, a nearly round-the-clock effort that begins in warehouses and ends in ever-growing lines.

Morning drop-off lanes have been transformed into food pickup drive-throughs that can stretch more than half a mile. Families stand clustered outside campuses in walk-up lines, spaced six feet apart by cones. L.A. Unified is spending more than $2 million per day in food costs — about $40 million so far, funds it believes will be reimbursed by the federal government.

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“This is a community in crisis,” said Los Angeles schools Supt. Austin Beutner. “Anyone who arrives looking for food, we’re assuming needs the food — and we’re going to provide it.”

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In the early morning darkness a truck driver goes over paperwork before going out delivering food from LAUSD Procurement Services Center in Pico Rivera.
In the early morning darkness, a truck driver goes over paperwork before delivering food from LAUSD Procurement Services Center in Pico Rivera.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A view storage section of frozen goods at LAUSD Procurement Services Center in Pico Rivera
Food storage at the LAUSD Procurement Services Center in Pico Rivera.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
 LAUSD cafeteria crew gets busy in making food bags James A. Garfield High School for distribution among area families.
LAUSD cafeteria workers prepare food bags at James A. Garfield High School for distribution.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Marc Monforte, director of material management and purchasing, speaks to truck drivers assembled early morning at LAUSD Procurement Services Center in Pico Rivera
Marc Monforte, director of material management and purchasing, speaks to truck drivers before their food deliveries.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

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People wait in long line to get meal bags distributed by LAUSD at James A. Garfield High School in Los Angeles.
People wait for food bags at James A. Garfield High School in Los Angeles.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
 LAUSD cafeteria crew directs cars approaching meal bag distribution stations
LAUSD workers direct cars at a food distribution station outside Garfield High School in Los Angeles.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A man grabs meal bags distributed by LAUSD James A. Garfield High School in Los Angeles
A man grabs meal bags distributed by LAUSD James A. Garfield High School in Los Angeles.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Women carry food bags from the Garfield High distribution site.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

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