Centralia Elementary School District’s food truck boosts access to nutritious summer meals

CESD food truck line
The Centralia Elementary School District served more than 21,700 free nutritious meals during the summer.

Addressing food insecurity among students who attend the Centralia Elementary School District doesn’t end when summer vacation begins. In fact, it’s a year-round priority. 

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As students return to their school sites to start the 2023-24 academic year, the district is taking note of the more than 21,700 nutritious meals served during summer break. About 4,300 of those meals were delivered to a number of community sites by the district’s food truck. 

The fully-customized mobile truck was gifted to the district by CEO Leadership Alliance Orange County — a coalition of over 55 chief executive officers who use their connections and experience to solve real-world problems in the county, in hopes to build a thriving community for all — which fundraised more than $388,000 to purchase and build out the vehicle. 

The truck debuted in the district’s Summer Foods program in 2021, offering free meals to people who are age 18 and under at public sites like the Buena Park Library District, Boys & Girls Club of Buena Park and local parks.

The truck has also allowed the department to transport boxes of food containing milk, eggs, cheese and fruits to help families with young children get through weekends without school-provided meals. 

Student visits CESD food truck

“As a former student of the Santa Ana Unified School District, I am able to resonate with our community because I experienced the same thing,” said Sotero Gonzalez, CESD’s director of food services. “There were days where I didn’t have food when I was a child. So it’s very powerful for our team to see the difference we’re able to make.” 

The food truck allows the district to drive deeper into neighborhoods and reach more people, but he says there is still more work to be done. 

“We want to get this valuable information out there to families,” said Gonzalez. “We’re proud of what we’re able to accomplish this summer, but we know there are more people out there who would benefit from our summer meals program.” 

As students return to school on Wednesday, the food services team is excited to continue building on the district’s scratch cooking operation. Centralia students can expect to see items like crispy baked chicken and pasta bolognese, served with marinara sauce that is made from scratch, on the menu.

The Centralia School District serves about 4,000 students at eight elementary schools in Buena Park, Anaheim and La Palma.