With schools closed by coronavirus, Chef Bruno finds new ways to feed the kids

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night – not even the dreaded coronavirus – can keep Chef Bruno Serato from feeding hungry kids.

Every day – in normal times – the Anaheim White House restaurateur famously shares his Italian cuisine with some 3,500 people, mostly children. Fifteen years ago, he founded the nonprofit Caterina’s Club to provide at-risk kids and motel families with quality dinners.

But with the closure of schools and childcare programs – not to mention his restaurant – Serato’s main avenues for disseminating pasta and marinara suddenly dwindled.

“We didn’t know what to do,” Serato said. “We still wanted to help.”

So he figured out another way.

Every morning over the last week, Serato and two of his cooks continued to show up at work despite empty tables and zero reservations.

After stirring up vats of spaghetti and tomato sauce, the connoisseurs loaded the now boxed up meals onto vans. Drivers then made deliveries to the handful of local organizations still serving clients.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach and of Huntington Valley have kept a few facilities open to provide childcare for the kids of employees deemed”essential,” including hospital and grocery store workers.

“Without Bruno, we wouldn’t have food for the kids,” said Don Rodriguez, CEO of the Long Beach locations. “He is an angel. His operation is suffering, too. Yet even with what he is dealing with, he’s still here for our kids.”

Many of the children are on free or reduced-price lunch programs at their schools. Now districts are providing “grab and go” meals for those students at centers around town. “But we would have to transport to pick up the lunches, which isn’t very feasible,” Rodriguez noted.

Even facilities that have been temporarily shuttered due to the pandemic welcome Serato’s donations. In San Clemente, a Caterina’s Club van pulled up every afternoon at the Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast Area – where the meals were transferred to cars for home deliveries.

“Bruno provides pasta to us every single night during the school year – enough for kids to share with their families,” South Coast Area CEO Terry Hughes said. “We put a request out there to find out who needed the meals.”

The facility delivered 118 meals to 24 homes each day, Hughes said. Rotary Club volunteers donated salad and pitched in with transportation.

“We also bring each family a craft project for entertainment,” Hughes said.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Anaheim-Cypress also closed its facilities, but Executive Director John Machiaverna said he plans to restart the Caterina’s Club program next week. Families will be able to drive through the roundabout at the Manzanita Park Clubhouse to collect pasta and canned goods.

“We will canvas neighborhoods and hand out flyers to let people know,” Machiaverna said. “Since Anaheim is a tourist destination, a lot of our parents work in restaurants and hotels that have been impacted. It’s a scary time.”

Iris Castillo, program director for Caterina’s Club, said the charity cooked up 910 pounds of pasta over the past week. Additionally, Serato disbursed 3,640 pounds of uncooked pasta for children to take home.

“We plan on making more distributions next week to more Boys & Girls Clubs and other programs,” Castillo said.

Machiaverna said he has witnessed Serato’s generosity for decades.

“Bruno has always been this way,” he said. “He grew up poor, and he wants all kids to know that they can be successful, too. He has the heart of a lion.”

Source: Orange County Register