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Imperial County elementary school districts are providing free meals for locals 18 and under

Daily meals will be provided starting this week - News 11's Vanessa Gongora reports

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Starting the week of June 13, the El Centro and Heber Elementary School District are providing free nutritious meals that will be open to community members 18 and under.

The Imperial County Public Health Department (ICPHD) says there is no cost or enrollment required and you do not need to attend the school districts.

Heber Elementary School is having their grab-and-go meal distribution during Summer school from June 13 to June 27, Mondays only from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

They will provide you with five daily breakfast, lunch and dinner meals.

Corina Ojeda, Imperial County Health Promotion Program Supervisor, says members of the ICPHD were present at Heber Elementary's first meal distribution Monday and it was very successful.

"The Heber elementary school had provided 1,300 healthy meals and the Imperial Valley Food Bank provided 3,800 fresh corns for the distribution," says Ojeda. 

Beginning June 16, child nutrition in El Centro will be served on Thursdays.

The location sites with be at Booker T Washington Elementary, Sunflower Elementary, Harding Elementary and Kennedy Middle School.

They will be serving meals from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. or until food is completely distributed.

Ojeda says the ICPHD's role is to increase food security.

She says the ICPHD staff has been maintaining a working on-going relationship with the school's food directors for many years now. They work with the schools to provide nutrition education to their students and conducted assessments to implement changes to their school wellness policies.

"It is important to help our community because access to healthy nutrition food is essential for reducing the risk of chronic diseases and it's associated with a healthier population overall," says Ojeda.

According to Ojeda, Imperial County has one of the highest food insecurities rates in the state and according to the Imperial Valley Food Bank, these rates remain one of the worst in the nation.

"35% of children of our county are food insecure meaning that children do not have reliable access to sufficient quality of food, nutritious food on top of that," says Ojeda. "So therefore it's important to increase community resource coordination such as with the Imperial Valley Food Bank."

One 7th grade student, Bella Benavidez, says what the schools are doing is a great thing.

"A lot of times parents can't afford this kind of money in order to get meals and it's great for parents and kids in need," says Benavidez.

She says this is something she will tell her friends about.

"A lot of times, it's a lot more nutritious at school because when we're at home we always tend to eat you know like junk food, potato chips but yet at school, the school doesn't just give out food," says Benavidez. "It plans out the food and makes sure it has nutritious value for kids." 

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Vanessa Gongora

Vanessa Gongora joined the KYMA team in 2022 and is the anchor/producer for CBS at 4 p.m.

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