During the COVID-19 pandemic, the LA community has come together to help their neighbors. That includes Deanna Ductoc, owner of Los Angelitos Bakery, a panaderia in Huntington Park.
Ductoc provides free pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread) to children ages 5-13 every week day.
“It's part of our culture. Pan dulce is something that you wake up [to], and you have it with your cafe or your champurrado,” she says. “It's big in a Hispanic household or especially in a Mexican household.”
At Los Angelitos, traditional Latino items like conchas, orejas, and bollios fill the shelves around the panaderia. They’re all baked in-house.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angelitos is one of many locations still open for take-out, under public health guidelines.
After the LA Unified School District closed its campuses, Ductoc learned from her sister that some students rely on schools for meals each day. With schools closed, she felt some might be left stranded.
Ductoc wondered what she could do to help.
“Being in Huntington Park, it is a lower income community. It's a heavily Hispanic community as well,” she says. “Knowing that these kids were not able to get their two meals a day, or the parents weren't able to leave work or be able to take care for them … [it’s] a lot more hardship on them than what probably is already going on in the home.”
Since Los Angelitos started its offer, Ductoc says they’ve served more than 100 students from the area, and expect more to visit the bakery.
LAUSD is the second largest school system in the nation, with more than 600,000 students. Before the coronavirus outbreak, LAUSD served more than a million meals a day, many of which were intended for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
In Huntington Park, an estimated 90% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch meals.
The bakery’s free pan dulce provides comfort to families like that of Yosslyn Cortes.
“They are laying off a lot of people too. ... My husband got laid off. So we're both at home not working. And it's pretty tough right now,” Cortes says.
Cortes lost her job as a housekeeper during the COVID-19 outbreak. She says it's hard on her family, but she at least gets to stay home with her kids, and that’s the silver lining.
Ductoc knows that the district is offering meals through its Grab-and-Go centers, but it doesn’t hurt for her to lend an extra hand.
“Having that extra option, that sweet little option to make sure that they get that little smile on their face at the end of the day. … If they want to come in and grab the happy face cookies or the sprinkle cookies or the chocolate chip cookies, I mean, any kid wouldn't say no to a free cookie.”
Ductoc says the offer will continue to stand until at least May.