East Side Union High School District has been a member organization of the Child Nutrition Coalition since 2016. This summer, East Side Union High School District participated in the Second Harvest Food Bank Summer Meals Program* and distributed almost 100,000 meals utilizing initiatives including mobile distribution and innovative community partnerships.

*The Second Harvest Food Bank Summer Meals Program provides free and healthy food for kids and teens throughout the summer. There are over 120 locations offering food in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. No paperwork or identification is required. 

Zia MacWilliams, our Manager of Federal Children’s Nutrition Programs, recently got the chance to chat with East Side Union High School District Director of General Services, Julie Kasberger.

Julie Kasberger, East Side Union High School District Director of General Services

Julie, tell us about East Side Union High School District and your role there.

East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD) is the largest high school district in Northern California. There’s a lot of diversity. We service kids that are high need and students who come from wealthy families.

I have been working at ESUHSD for 13 years. I started in foodservice and over time my position has evolved to include both food and transport. I’ve learned that these two areas really compliment each other.

I am currently the Food Services and Transportation Supervisor. At ESUHSD, we serve about 6,000 lunches, 4,000 breakfast meals, and 1,000 suppers each day. Regarding transportation, we have just under 100 routes and directly cover 30 of them, mostly for children with special needs. I manage 75 adult staff members and 200 kids that work as cashiers. Overall, we offer meals to 25,000 kids when you include the charter schools.

I have worked in foodservice for 30 years and ESUHSD has been the best place to work for!

How did you start collaborating with Second Harvest Food Bank?

I started the conversation two years ago with Marie Pfeiffer, Second Harvest Food Bank Manager of School Breakfast & Out-of-School Time Meals. We received an infrastructure grant that was really helpful because we have limited resources for making improvements. Then, we got involved with Second Harvest’s Child Nutrition Coalition Meeting. That’s where we got really involved with the Summer Meals Program.

One of the East Side High School District’s trucks that helped distribute over 100,000 free and healthy meals to kids and teens in our community this summer!

Was it challenging managing 18 sites this summer?

It was indeed a very busy summer! We kept getting stories of community need from Second Harvest so we added on eight new sites. I was lucky to have a great assistant who came up with creative ideas and an amazing Child Nutrition Services staff that made it happen at each of the sites.

We really want to do what’s right for the kids. There are times when we are dealing with regulations we cannot control and unfortunately, it appears like we are the people saying “no”.

What was your biggest success this summer?

We served almost 100,000 meals to kids! The number sounds big, but it all comes down to that one kid who would have gone hungry otherwise.

Did you receive any feedback from the community about your efforts this summer?

Yes! My favorite feedback was a message that said: “Thank you for your efforts, but next year if you do X, Y, and Z you can get more kids.” We love getting this kind of feedback since this year is a learning year.

Why did you decide to try mobile meals this summer?

I had been reading and thinking about it for a couple of years. I really wanted to blend my roles and take the yellow buses out. Unfortunately, the drivers weren’t available. We were sitting around the table at Valley Palms throwing spaghetti at walls (figuratively) trying to make things work. I also wanted to provide summertime employment to my staff. We are planning on doing mobile meals again next year but with some tweaks.

Do you have any advice for other school districts thinking about expanding to mobile meals?

It’s best when the facility has staff to serve the meals…and start planning early. It takes a lot of time the first year to figure out how to do it well. But, it’s worth it! Try one site…just do it!