ST. PAUL, Minn. – Government-sponsored food trucks will be stalking students this summer with the goal of giving out thousands of “healthy” free lunches officials don’t trust parents to provide.
Officials at St. Paul public schools recently announced they’re working with the local food bank Second Harvest to dispatch a mobile food truck to expand locations offering students free lunches during the summer. Last year the district supplied 71 locations, and the truck will help to add another 10 to 15 in 2015, KSTP reports.
The district’s director of nutrition services, Stacy Koppen, said the truck will drive around to different locations between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. to help feed the city’s needy youngsters. The truck will track down students at “spots like suggested basketball courts or fields where kids like to play,” according to the news site.
The very expensive-looking specially rigged step van features a billboard with grinning teens alongside the message “Kids and teens: Get your free meals here.” The district apparently didn’t offer the details on how the new program is financed, or how much the truck cost, and the news station didn’t bother to ask. School officials said the truck will be manned by volunteers.
Koppen said the district serves 29,000 lunches a day during the school year, but only 6,000 a day during the summer, so officials reasoned a truck is necessary to make sure students aren’t starving.
“Time and again, we such a steep decline that we wonder, ‘Where are these children going? Are they getting the healthy, nutritious food they need for their health and academic success?’” Koppen told KTSP.
“We want to make sure that when children return to school for the next school year, that they are at the optimal health status and that they are ready to learn,” she said, adding that the free food is available to all, not just low income kids.
Minneapolis Public Schools have used food trucks to give away lunches since at least 2013. The Hopkins district in Minnesota, as well as districts in Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Indiana, California, Tennessee, and other states have also launched trucks to take free food to students during the summer.
In New York City, organizations can also apply to have school food trucks deliver meals to students on site upon request.
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Most, if not all, of the school food trucks seem to be funded at least in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as part of the federal free and reduced-price school lunch program.
“Each summer, the United States Department of Agriculture reimburses school districts for all meals prepared and served at no cost to any child under the age of 18,” the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports.
The news site explained that School District 51 expanded its free summer lunch program to dispatch a food truck to patrol local neighborhoods and seek out students.
“The USDA will pay for food and staff labor but not for the purchase of a food truck or the cost of running it,” according to the Daily Sentinel.
In District 51, the cost of the truck and expenses are covered by a $50,000 grant from the Western Colorado Community Foundation.