Anaheim, California (CNN) - In the shadows of Disneyland, often referred to as the "happiest place on Earth," many children are living a reality that's far from carefree.
They are living in cheap motels more commonly associated with drug dealers, prostitutes and illicit affairs.
It's the only option for many families that are struggling financially and can't scrape together a deposit for an apartment. By living week to week in these cramped quarters, they stay one step ahead of homelessness.
"Some people are stuck, they have no money. They need to live in that room," said Bruno Serato, a local chef and restaurateur. "They've lost everything they have. They have no other chance. No choice."
While "motel kids" are found across the United States, the situation is very common in Orange County, California, a wealthy community with high rents and a large number of old motels. In 2009, local authorities estimated that more than 1,000 families lived in these conditions.
When Serato learned that these children often go hungry, he began serving up assistance, one plate at a time. To date, he's served more than 270,000 pasta dinners - for free - to those in need.
"Kids should not be suffering," Serato said. "[I had] to do something."