Looking for a way to provide convenient, nutritious meals to area youth, Lakota Schools decided to take to the road – retrofitting a couple of buses that otherwise would have gone to auction due to their age.
“We determined that these buses were no longer suitable to transport our students, but they still are very usable,” explains Chris Passarge, Lakota’s chief operations officer. “By removing several rows of seats, we can take the summer food program into the neighborhoods, reaching kids who might otherwise not have been able to participate due to lack of transportation.”
The program, which is a collaboration between the Faith Alliance, the Butler County Success program and Lakota, is fully funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Any Lakota student up to 18 years old (21 if disabled) can participate, with the intent being to help those students on Lakota’s free and reduced lunch program get proper nutrition over the summer, too.
This is the second year that Lakota has been involved to help expand the summer food program that was begun by the Faith Alliance several years ago.
“We think more students will take advantage of the program, thanks to the visibility of the buses,” said Lakota’s Child Nutrition Director Chris Burkhardt. And word is spreading,through such articles as this recent one by Michael Clark that ran in the Journal-News.
This year, thanks to the buses, several sites have been added, with the free lunch program now offered at:
Deer Run/Mill Creek Apartments
7846 Mill Creek Cr., West Chester
Monday-Friday: Noon -12:40 p.m.
5126 Hamilton Middletown Rd., Liberty Twp.
Monday-Friday: 11-11:40 a.m.
8953 Princeton Glendale Rd., West Chester
Monday-Friday: 1 -1:15 p.m.
Meadow Ridge Apartments
5270 Aster Park Dr., West Chester
Monday-Friday: 11:40 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Lakota Lakes Apartments
6757 Lakeside Dr., West Chester
Monday-Friday: 12:30 -1:15 p.m.
8600 Cincinnati-Columbus Rd., West Chester
Monday-Friday: 11 -11:15 a.m.
Liberty Jr. High School
7055 Dutchland Blvd., Liberty Township
Monday-Friday: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
According to Burkhardt, last summer there was one site with about 100 children, totaling just over 3,000 meals. By expanding the sites to seven this summer, projections are for about 600 kids to be fed, or about 30,000 meals.
“By removing the seats, we created in effect mobile kitchens, so the students can walk through to pick up their lunch items,” explains Burkhardt. “We’re even able to offer a hot meal item, which for some of the kids may be the most robust meal they get that day.”
Students who were eligible for free and reduced school meals during the 2015-2016 school year qualify to participate in this program. Volunteers are still needed to support the program;visit the Faith Alliance’s website for more information about becoming a volunteer.
Carol Adkins, Lynn Gilkey, Laurie Straub and Emma Humrichouser are prepped and awaiting local children as part of the summer food program, that provides free lunches to Lakota students. The re-purposed bus lets the food easily be taken to the youth, especially those who otherwise could not partake due to lack of transportation.
Various food stations inside the mobile kitchen include fresh fruit, healthy drinks and even a hot food selection. A second bus goes into the neighborhoods too, so kids can have a place to eat, socialize and participate in fun, yet educational activities.