Drive-thru Thanksgiving: CA district offers immunizations, groceries and turkeys to more than 200 students
Laura Fay | November 23, 2020
More than 200 students in one California district received turkeys, groceries and their required school immunizations at a drive-thru clinic last week.
With Thanksgiving looming, the event for West Contra Costa Unified School District families in Richmond, California, on Thursday attempted to solve two problems at once — many families in the district are vulnerable to food insecurity, and more than 700 students still hadn’t formally registered for school because they were missing their regular immunizations, said Tony Wold, the district’s associate superintendent of business services. Those students have been participating in online classes, but can now officially enroll.
During the drive-thru event at district headquarters, 244 students received immunizations, and hundreds more are expected to take advantage of the program in the coming days at the El Cerrito Safeway supermarket, which partnered with the district on the event. Families also picked up a turkey and a week’s worth of food as part of the district’s ongoing meal program for students.
The district will also draw names to give 200 families $50 gift cards for Safeway, paid for by the West Contra Costa Public Education Fund, a nonprofit that supports families in the district.
Students could get any of the shots in the series of immunizations required to enroll in school in California, which protect them from measles, mumps, chickenpox and other illnesses.Children and the family member who brought them could also get a flu shot during the event, Wold said. Many students fell behind on their immunizations this year as clinics became overwhelmed dealing with COVID-19, he added.
Wold hopes to have nearly all students caught up on their shots by Thanksgiving, and the district will continue to work with families until everyone has met state requirements.
Safeway pharmacists provided and administered the vaccines. The cost will be covered by insurance for families who have it, and the district will use CARES Act funding, the one-time aid Congress set aside for schools earlier this year, for those who do not.
“I can’t think of a better use of those dollars than to support these students,” Wold said.
Safeway also gave out coupons for 10 percent off at their stores to every student who participated. Another partner, the school bus company First Student, which provides transportation for West Contra Costa special education students, picked up families who needed a ride and brought them home after the event for free. Hill Physicians Medical Group, a local network of doctors, also helped with the project.
The district, located just north of Berkeley, serves almost 29,000 students, more than half of whom are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, a common indicator of poverty.
Blue Shield of California, an insurance company, brought the partners together and helped organize the event.
“On the most basic level you want [kids] to be as healthy as possible and not be getting sick or being vulnerable in any way, and so something like this is right up Blue Shield of California’s alley, trying to make sure that we lift all boats when it comes to health of citizens here in California,” said Mark Seelig, a spokesman for the company.
The collaboration was “fortuitous,” Wold said: It started with an email from someone at Blue Shield looking to help children vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic in West Contra Costa Unified, and the event came together in less than two weeks.
“I’ve been in public education for almost 30 years. Today is probably one of the proudest events of my life, my professional career,” Wold said Thursday. “Getting these kids the simplest of things — the immunization that keeps them safe, and getting them back into school — I cannot tell you how proud I am of the team and our district that put this together and the partners that came to our aid. It’s heartwarming.”