A La Carte provides free meals to community


Navi Chawla

MVHS parent Edith Arana, who suffers from severe asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease, making it difficult to breath, had just left work to pick her daughter up from school on a Thursday afternoon. Arana walked across the back parking lot to the front of the district office, where she was met with three trays of food, consisting of chicken, vegetables, and rice. She did not have the time or resources to make her daughter a full meal, but A La Carte provided her the ability to not have to worry about what she was going to feed her family that week.

A program initiated by the nonprofit Silicon Valley Food Rescue, A La Carte is a fleet of trucks that collect surplus food, packaged and prepared, from local corporate and university campuses and cafeterias and distributes them to highly populated neighborhoods in the Bay Area.

Since January, A La Carte has been making weekly stops in front of the district office every Thursday from 2:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Anyone can receive food, with no requirements for any form of paperwork or personal information.

“It’s nice that when my family is busy and my husband and I are working long nights or shifts, that we are able to come home and have all of these meals already prepared for not just one day, but for the next couple of days,” Arana said.

Director of the SVFR Robin Franz Martin said that the program addresses food insecurity and alleviates economic pressures in the Bay Area.

According to the National Research Institute, the U.S. wastes 150,000 tons of food a day, which is either thrown out or not eaten. In addition, one in six Bay Area residents are food insecure, with more than 200,000 people living below the official poverty line, according to a study by the Joint Venture Institute.

“The impact we [A La Carte] make is significant because we are able to bring readily prepared foods to those in need, without paperwork, and without families having to hassle for transportation,” Martin said.

Student Services Coordinator Huong Vo said that A La Carte’s unique policy of forgoing paperwork helps to remove all barriers so that students and families can get food without any questions or restrictions.

Alta Vista student Heejae Kang, who frequently receives food from the program, said that some students in the community may feel insecure about undergoing a time consuming process to be supplied with food, so having a paperwork free system that provides a consistent stock of food is very beneficial for them.

Vo also said she believes that the partnership between A La Carte and Mountain View is very accomodating, not only for MVHS and Alta Vista but for the rest of the community because the food that isn’t fully served in Mountain View goes to another location where others can also utilize the program’s benefits.

“It’s a great opportunity for students, families, and staff considering the current economic hardships, such as the government and military shutdown, to get basic necessities like food,” Vo said.

She said the food students are receiving is essential because it gives students the opportunity to perform better in school and reach their full potential. Students’ opportunities will widen with more concentration and focus in the classroom, as well as in sports.

Martin said that in the future she plans on partnering A La Carte with other organizations, for example Santa Clara County, to create awareness for their cause and increase their ability to help others. She also said that A La Carte primarily gives out food at elementary schools, and she wants to extend their locations to reach as many people as possible.

Vo said during the first week, A La Carte served 100 meals at Mountain View and 200 its second week; as awareness about their initiative grows, so will their ability to assist those in need.

The couple of extra meals that are supplied by this initiative [A La Carte] can make a huge difference for families in need,” Martin said.

Photos by Akhand Dugar