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Editorial: LAUSD is teaching a lesson on how to fight hunger during the pandemic

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Is it really the job of a school district to feed the hungry during a pandemic? Not just the low-income students who qualify for subsidized lunches, but also their families, other kids and, well, any other empty-bellied person who comes along?

Sure it is. For all the many forms of relief coming from the state and federal governments, there is nothing more basic to a humane and caring society than feeding the hungry. Whoever has the wherewithal to do it, should. Most school districts in the state are providing some form of grab-and-go meals to needy students, but Los Angeles Unified School District has expanded its program beyond that, to simply providing food to all takers at 63 of its campuses.

It’s an odd and audacious move but the right one. In tandem with some charities in the area, L.A. Unified is essentially running a collection of food banks, which are normally private and don’t fall within the purview of education. Good thing, too. The lines for charitable food pantries are running long, supermarkets have less leftover food to donate and volunteers often are senior citizens, who now are being told to stay home unless they must venture out for an essential chore such as grocery shopping.

The half a million or so people who come for the lunches almost certainly need them. Sit in a half-mile-long line for a handful of lunch sacks just to get an unnecessary freebie? Not likely.

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L.A. Unified is banking on the federal government reimbursing it for the food through the school-lunch program even though the district isn’t following the precise rules about who is entitled to food giveaways. That’s a risk to the tune of $2 million a day, the sort of fiscally chancy move that a public agency shouldn’t ordinarily take.

In this case, it should. In fact, we wish more California school districts would follow L.A. Unified’s lead to whatever extent they can. And the federal government should gladly pay all of them. This country has tolerated hunger and food insecurity within its borders for too long.

Donations to the food giveaway can be made to the LA Students Most in Need Fund at LAStudentsMostInNeed.org or by texting NEED to 76278.

Perhaps it’s not the most traditional of educational functions. Let’s just consider it a lesson in humanity.


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