There are children who hate summer. “Teachers tell me stories about kids who actually hate summer because it’s when they don’t have food,” said IFFS Childhood Hunger Programs Manager, Kyle Abrams. “Hunger during the school year typically occurs on the weekend, because food-insecure students get free or reduced-price breakfast & lunch during the school week. When they go home on the weekend during the school year, they have to make it through two days without enough food. In the summer, they have to make it through two months.”
More than half of public school students in North Carolina (57.56%) applied for free or reduced priced meals. For these kids, school is more than a place to fill their minds. It’s a reliable place to fill their bellies.
“Our summer programs are extremely important, because these kids really do fall through the cracks,” said Abrams.
During the school year IFFS feeds over 2,000 children through our BackPack Buddies program (which sends kids home each weekend with a backpack containing six balanced meals and 2 healthy snacks). In the summer months, only students attending summer school or year-round schools are reachable by this model.
So our Childhood Hunger team collaborates with our Food Services division for some innovative - and effective - solutions.
[bctt tweet="Over 57% of public school students in NC fall through the cracks in the summer. #StopSummerHunger"]
For the third year, our bright orange food truck will deliver hot, healthy meals directly to kids in areas of high need. Four days a week, our Mobile Tastiness Machine (MTM) will serve healthy meals free of charge to children 18 years or younger. On most nights the MTM serves between 100-150 meals, ranging from stir-fry, to tacos, to sloppy joes – and always with salad and fruit on the side.
Mobile Tastiness Machine locations are selected based on proximity to children, the food needs of those kids, and logistics such as enough space to park and set up the food truck.
[box type="note" size="medium" style="rounded" border="full"]2015 MTM Summer Schedule
Mondays Chavis Park 6pm – 7:30pm
Tuesdays Horseshoe Park 4pm – 5:30pm
Wednesdays Parrish Manor 4pm – 5:30pm
Thursdays Crosby-Garfield Center 4pm – 5:30pm[/box]
“The biggest barrier that kids have when they’re not at school is access and transportation,” explained Abrams. “The Mobile Tastiness machine gets around that during the summer by taking the meals to the kids.”
This summer, UnitedHealthcare has stepped forward to sponsor Mobile Tastiness Machine meals.
“We feel that limited access to nutritious foods is a major issue statewide and particularly in the counties you serve,” said Community Relations Manager Corinna Miller. “In response, UnitedHealthcare has partnered with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle to combat food insecurity.”
[bctt tweet=".@FoodShuttle's food truck serves free summer meals to kids in need directly where they live #StopSummerHunger" via="no"]
HOT LUNCHES, FULL BELLIES
“They’re going to get a hot meal that can be anything from chicken and rice, to spaghetti with meat sauce,” said Abrams. “The kids also get a side (usually a vegetable), a salad, a fresh fruit, and a beverage of 100% juice.”
“It’s a huge amount of meals that we’re serving during the summer,” said Abrams. “Just at EDCI we’re serving 5 lunches per week to 100 kids, over nine weeks – plus 600 meals each weekend via BackPack Buddies. That’s almost 10,000 meals just at one site.”
WE FEED, WE TEACH
All summer meals are prepared by our Culinary Job Training Program students, as well as graduates who have been hired as Culinary Interns. MTM Driver/Cook, Danny, also graduated from our CJTP program a little over a year ago. This symbiotic relationship is what makes the Food Shuttle run.
“While students are getting training at no cost to them, they are providing a service to others in our community who are in need of food today,” said IFFS Food Service & Job Training Division Chief, Chef Terri Hutter. “As the students learn their skills, they’ll do some of the prep for the meals we make. For instance they may cut cucumbers because we’re serving a side of cucumber salad with the meal.”
Meanwhile the bulk of meal preparation is handled by Culinary Interns, supervised by IFFS Production Manager Sunshine Beard. In the morning, the team first focuses on the hot lunches for EDCI and Full Circles, before turning their attention to preparing MTM dinners, in addition to meals for Read & Feed summer sessions.
All in all, IFFS will serve about 28,500 meals to approximately 700 children.
While that is a high number of meals, unfortunately the number of children facing food-insecurity is even higher. Just in the seven counties IFFS serves (Wake, Nash, Edgecombe, Johnston, Orange, Durham, and Chatham), over 121,000 children applied for free or reduced price school meals. And despite top efforts by IFFS and many other local organizations, when these children don’t eat at school, far too many simply don’t eat.
[bctt tweet="This summer, @FoodShuttle will serve about 28,500 healthy meals to approximately 700 children" via="no"]
By Lindsay Humbert, IFFS Digital Media Specialist. Contact: Lindsay@FoodShuttle.org