If you’re a kid that’s on free or reduced-price meals during the school year, what happens once summer vacation starts? Many kids rely on that mid-day meal during the school year to boost their energy and keep them fed when their families can’t afford it, but then run into problems, some going hungry, when school lets out.
Although if they’re lucky, they might be getting their meal from a food truck.
Across the country, 21 million kids qualify for free or reduced-price meals, but in the summer months when school is no longer in session, that number falls to about 3 million. What about the rest of them?
While there is an entire program set up to ensure that kids have access to meals throughout the summer months, thanks to the USDA Summer Food Service Program, providing children with meals can be a logistical challenge, between the parents working and sometimes not having cars. The solution? Bring the meals to them.
Certainly the use of food trucks to distribute meals allows families who would otherwise have problems accessing summer meal programs to still take part. “I think this is amazing,” Kayleigh Warath told The Reporter after seeing a mobile food distribution in Vacaville, California. “I’ve never seen where they come to you. I think people are really helped with the truck coming to them. A lot of people don’t have cars.”
In New York City, about 75% of public school students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, which means that there are a lot of mouths to feed. A couple of years ago New York City’s Department of Education got its first food truck, and this sumer it has four, all making sure that kids get to eat a nutritious lunch. “By bringing the food to them we’re able to extend our reach in ways that previously were unattainable,” Eric Goldstein, CEO of the department’s Office of School Support Services, told the AP.
A food truck also makes it a more relaxed affair. “Having a food truck-style vehicle makes it fun for kids, and reduces the stigma often associated with free meals that has limited participation,” Josh Wachs, chief strategy officer for the organization Share Our Strength, told the AP. The organization is behind the No Kid Hungry program, which helped the city get the trucks to provide its mobile food.
Providing meals in the summer is a bit easier as well, as it doesn’t involve any paperwork. “In any neighborhood where the majority of kids qualify for subsidies, summer meal programs can get USDA funding without requiring children to enroll or prove eligibility,” reports NPR. That makes eating more of a communal affair as well, as anyone under the ages of 18 is welcome to come and enjoy a free meal.
It doesn’t fix all the problems, but it’s at least a good start to keep kids from going hungry.
Photo Credit: Ricardo Diaz
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