As the CEO Leadership Alliance of Orange County (CLA-OC) was being formed, members began to look at prevalent issues in Orange County, one of which was the alarming issue that 1 in 6 children remains hungry in OC. Two founding CLA-OC members wanted to support a project devoted to addressing child hunger, knowing that it is a barrier to learning and academic success. Mark Wetterau, CEO of Golden State Foods, and Chris Wing, CEO (ret.) of SCAN Health Plan, supported the mobile meal assistance project as an innovative model to address child hunger in partnership with a school district.
With two CEO Champions and the support of CLA-OC members, we partnered with Centralia Elementary School District (CESD) to create a new way to offer more meals and greater access to meals for their students. Centralia is the first school district in Orange County to utilize a food truck to address the meal gaps for their students. The original model was to increase after school meal service, double the summer meals, and promote greater participation in breakfast at school sites. CLA-OC also funded equipment for the main kitchen to increase the productivity of meals.
Once the original pilot plan for the food truck was established, COVID-19 hit. Schools closed down, distance learning began, and the demand for prepackaged meals shifted dramatically. Centralia had to reorganize how they do their work and how to best serve their students. The district was able to adapt the mobile service by utilizing it as part of a pick-up meal system for their students. Their drive-thru meal program is located at a large parking lot in Anaheim. Students can pick up multiple meals that last for several days, and the service will be offered all summer to Centralia students and their families.
CLA-OC raised almost $400k in funds, working with member company foundations, personal foundations, and private donors. Orange County United Way has become a valued partner on the project that aligns with their Healthy Schools Initiative.
Whatever happens in the fall, the Centralia food services program will be able to accommodate the distribution of meals because of the food truck. The increased production capability is vital due to the increased need during COVID-19. For CESD, student success is a top priority, and part of that includes addressing the whole child. CLA-OC is proud to support their efforts in educating over 4,000 students and their families.
Thank you to our donors for supporting this innovative project:
- SCAN Health Foundation – Chris Wing, CEO (ret.)
- Golden State Foods Foundation – Mark Wetterau, CEO
- Western Digital Foundation – Steve Milligan, CEO
- PIMCO Foundation – Manny Roman, CEO
- Pacific Life Foundation – Jim Morris, CEO
- Pacific Dental Foundation – Steve Thorne, CEO
- David and Molly Pyott Foundation
- Ingram Micro Foundation – Alain Monie, CEO
- Gochnauer Foundation – Dick Gochnauer (Co-Founder CLA-OC)
- Ray Wirta, Retired President, Irvine Co.
- Doug and Lisa Holte, Irvine Co.
- James Marshall and Lori Ann Krohn
- Todd and Denise Talbot
- Irvine Co. Apartment Development team
- CEO Leadership Alliance of Orange County – Doug Wilson, Chair
We hope similar initiatives can emerge from other districts, and we are excited to see how the program develops to support OC families and impact education overall.