SGV Tribune

From ‘Grab and Go’ to culinary pro: Creative ways parents are using LAUSD food aid

Packages of baby carrots are becoming carrot cake and oodles of string cheese turn to pizza or mozzarella sticks

Quarantine in the time of coronavirus has made home cooks out of even the most restaurant-dependent among us. And when more than half of Angelenos reported filing for unemployment benefits, an increasing amount of food on the table is coming from aid organizations.

One of the largest distributors of food daily has been the Los Angeles Unified School District, said this week that it has handed out 10.3 million total breakfast and lunch meals since the service began March 18. Lines to pick up the meals are growing.

The daily haul of milk and sandwiches, apples, salad, crackers, chips and apple sauce may seem like it would get dull after a while, but families are getting creative. Three L.A. Unified teachers were so impressed with all the edible genius that they decided to condense it into one Facebook page: “Meals to Go, Top Chef.”

A day’s worth of LAUSD ‘Grab and Go’ food aid. Parent Rere Lopez plans to cook the carrots and add ham and butter to fry the pull apart bread to make picadillo tomorrow. (Courtesy of Rere Lopez)


Special ed teacher at Andres and Maria Cardenas Elementary in Van Nuys Michelle Cloutier is accustomed to seeing these food items in her classroom and in the cafeteria, normally served under strict federal guidelines.

“One of the things we are allowed to keep in the classroom throughout the day is fruit. We all always have a basket of apples and oranges that just sit there and we either have to toss them or send them home,” said Cloutier. “So when I saw somebody make an apple pie and I was like wow! After that there was just more and more.”

First grade teachers Maria Rodriguez and Estella Flores are also managing the culinary social media hub. Rules for the group: You must be a supporter of public education, share what you’re using from “Grab and Go” and involve kids in your cooking process.

Here’s just a smidge of what they’ve come up with:

Parent at Herrick Avenue Elementary School in Sylmar Karen Ruelas figured she would make apple pie of the several LAUSD ‘Grab and Go’ apples she had during coronavirus school closures. (Courtesy of Karen Ruelas)

With the regular supply of apples, Sylmar parent Karen Ruelas and several others are making apple pie, a classic fave. Here’s the recipe she used.

LAUSD parent Leslie Mendez made carrot cake out of carrots, raisins and oranges distributed at one of 63 ‘Grab and Go’ centers. (Courtesy of Leslie Mendez)

Bags of carrots are also a regular “Grab and Go” offering. With carrots, oranges and packs of raisins parent Leslie Mendez made carrot cake. Here’s her recipe.

LAUSD parent Vane Rivas made jello out of the milk and chocolate milk distributed at LAUSD ‘Grab and Go’ sites. (Courtesy of Vane Rivas)

LAUSD parent Vane Rivas made a gelatin dessert out of the milk or chocolate milk from the good giveaways.

Julissa Vasquez Estrada, parent at Allesandro Elementary & Irving Steam Middle, spruced up an LAUSD breakfast sandwich with cheese over a friend egg. (Courtesy of Julissa Vasquez Estrada)

Parent Julissa Vasquez Estrada spruced up her version of breakfast sandwiches with fried egg and cheese.

Julissa Vasquez Estrada, parent at Allesandro Elementary & Irving Steam Middle, fried mozzarella sticks out of LAUSD string cheese with her daughter. (Courtesy of Julissa Vasquez Estrada)

Estrada also fried up mozzarella sticks out of string cheese with her 11-year-old daughter using the ‘Grab and Go’ string cheese.

LAUSD parent Jaiden Perlas had too many LAUSD string cheeses on his hands, so he put them over some lavash bread with pepperoni for a pizza. (Courtesy of Jaiden Perlas)

LAUSD parent Jaiden Pearlas said he had extra string cheese from the school district, so he threw it on some laffa bread to make pizza. Others are using ‘Grab and Go’ cheese pull-apart bread as the dough.


Chase Street Elementary teacher Yamilet Martinez concocted a bread pudding using LAUSD milk and craisins. (Courtesy of Yamilet Martinez)

Using milk and craisins, Chase Street Elementary teacher Yamilet Martinez made bread pudding.

LAUSD Parent Jennifer Salada made a pear crisp with food distributed at a district ‘Grab and Go’ site. (Courtesy of Jennifer Salada)

LAUSD parent Jennifer Salada used this recipe to make a pear crisp.

Other parents have created such delicacies as pastelitos (also known as empanadas) and curtido relish with the carrots. Some are even pickling the fresh veggies in brine.

And the list keeps going…