Nearly 21 million American children eat free and reduced-price meals throughout the school year, through a program administered by the USDA. Feeding those children during the summer presents real challenges. Some school districts are trying new ways to reach into their communities to feed kids. Blake Farmer (@flakebarmer) provides this piece for nprEd and NPR’s Morning Edition.
For example, the Murfreesboro (Tennessee) city schools are taking the cafeteria to the kids they hope to feed…via bus. The district is calling it the Combating Hunger on Wheels – CHOW – Bus. The buses have been fitted for that purpose: some seats have been replaced with tables and they are air-conditioned so that kids can enjoy their meal in comfort.
The USDA hopes to serve – via school districts – 200 million meals this summer. But some students live too far from school, and without daily bus service, might miss out on meals. Sandy Sheele leads the nutrition services programs for Murfreesboro City Schools; the district’s CHOW Bus is in its second year of providing mobile meals during the summer.
“I just thought, if there’s some way we can reach our children out there,” recalls Sheele, “and we had a retired school bus, so I went and asked for it. Now I’m constantly looking for buses.”
Other districts around the nation are offering similar programs. How has it worked in Murfreesboro? So well that the district is providing two additional buses this summer.
….the mobile meal program helped the city double the number of children who were fed last summer, from roughly 30,000 meals served to more than 60,000. The push also gives school district staff a close-up encounter with kids they see every day.
They may witness a mom snapping at her children or several families emerging from the same apartment. Bus driver Dawn Rashonsky says she now understands where they’re coming from and why they might be a little grumpy when they show up for school.
“We tend to think that people don’t go hungry where we live,” she says. “We see everything and anything at all these sites.”