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Eat REAL Helps School Heroes Safely Serve Half a Million Crisis Meals to Kids Every Week

OAKLAND, Calif.— April 7, 2020—As the COVID-19 crisis continues, schools across the country have become de facto food banks for families in need of healthy, nutritious meals. Schools are closed yet many school kitchens remain open, so every day at designated school sites, foodservice workers and volunteers continue to distribute breakfast and lunches. Now, they’re trying to safely serve meals to the 29.7 million kids and their families who depend on school meals. The economic impacts of COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders are multiplying, and school foodservice programs are experiencing increased demand in new ways. 

 Today, the Oakland-based nonprofit organization Eat REAL is distributing reusable (non-N-95) masks to foodservice professionals to promote safe food distribution and worker protections. Eat REAL is providing these masks at the request of these critical front-line workers who, like many in the essential workforce, are experiencing shortages of protective gear. The first shipment of masks was distributed in the California Bay area, across  Boulder, and Boston.  

“The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted everyday heroes that society often takes for granted,” said Eat REAL’s CEO Nora LaTorre. “Just like our frontline healthcare heroes, school foodservice providers are everyday nutrition heroes who are working overtime to ensure local families can eat healthy meals during this pandemic. Nutrition is essential for the body to effectively overpower viral infections.”

“In addition to the health crisis, the associated economic fallout means we have more and more students and families who desperately need access to real food access through these meals, so protecting our workforce is a primary concern,” said Brandy Dreibelbis, foodservice director for Napa Valley Unified School District. “Eat REAL’s support gives our volunteers and workers crucial peace of mind as they provide this essential service.”

The masks are non-95, 100% cotton, three-layer protective masks that are washable and reusable. Last Friday, the C.D.C. updated their guidance and they now recommend wearing masks in public to slow the spread. Eat REAL’s mask initiative is helping ensure low-income and suddenly no-income families and students continue to receive over half a million meals weekly from schools. 

“We must support these school foodservice professionals and volunteers across the country who are on the front lines of protecting children’s health,” said Dr. Alan Greene, noted pediatrician, author, and board member of Eat REAL.

From medical workers to school food service providers, we’re all in uncharted territory when it comes to this pandemic, so it’s important to have the proper tools and resources in place to promote safe behavior. With this in mind, the global design company IDEO, helped Eat REAL by remotely directing and editing these Mask 101 videos—in English and Spanish—designed to protect those providing this essential service. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that eight out of ten of Latinx aren’t able to work from home so it was important for Eat REAL to create a version in Spanish as well. School districts can complete the form on this page (link) to request masks for their volunteers and workers across California and the nation.

Working together is key right now so in addition to providing masks and health and safety videos—- the latter being a collaboration with global design firm IDEO, Eat REAL collaborated with Lunch Assist, the Center for Ecoliteracy, and Nutritionist/Translator Paloma Perez Bertrand on additional educational materials promoting safe foodservice and precautions for school staff to follow while serving meals during this crisis.

If you are interested in donating masks or a financial contribution to support our effort to reach more school food distribution centers, please contact This initiative has already supported 20 districts representing 631 schools. Given the inquiries the nonprofit is receiving, it’s anticipated their reach will at least double this week so more donors are needed to support and help them feed meals to kids safely. 


About Eat REAL
Eat REAL® is a 501(c) (3) Public Health nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California. Eat REAL is dedicated to transforming food in K-12 schools, creating a healthier next generation and planet. Launched in 2012, Eat REAL Certified is a nutrition and sustainability best practices certification program working with school district foodservice leaders to raise the bar and make food in schools more nutritious and sustainable. The organization supports over 237 schools across California and the United States to increase real food access and education with financial support from Battery Powered, Raley’s Food for Families Foundation, Walmart Foundation, WeWorkForGood, incredible angel supporters and special support from 96 donors through Eat REAL’s COVID-19 response campaign. More information can be found at


From the Frontlines

Dominic Machi, Food Service Director MDUSD
Contra Costa County, CA

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