While childhood obesity now affects one in five kids, there’s an inverse problem that gets a lot less press: due in part to the recession, more kids than ever are food insecure and lack access to healthy, nutritious meals.
Many kids who receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year still have access to the same food over the summer through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, but the bulk of children don’t have the lunches because the food is only available at the school cafeteria; kids often feel stigmatized for having to go to school during summer vacation to get the free meal.
Tim Cipriano, executive director of school food services for New Haven, Connecticut, has come up with a genius idea to get kids to eat healthier, one brown bag lunch at a time. He created a partnership between New Haven Public Schools and the United Way of Greater New Haven, with additional support from the Connecticut No Kid Hungry campaign, to start the food truck program last summer to make it easier — and fun — for kids to eat healthy year ’round.
The truck serves neighborhoods where many kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, providing access to good food where it’s needed most. Serving basic lunches of milk, deli sandwiches and fresh fruit, the truck handed out 17,000 meals in just 20 days last August. Cipriano is looking to serve 40,000 meals in the next two months, and hopes to add more trucks to serve hot meals as well.
The New Haven School Food Truck has inspired others, like a school food service director in rural Fayette County, Indiana, who saw an opportunity when she read about Cipriano’s trucks and implemented a similar program in her area. We’re hoping other cities throughout the country will follow suit to put the high numbers of kids without access to healthy meals in the bag.
Find the summer meals programs in your area by calling the National Hunger Hotline: 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-877-8-HAMBRE for Spanish speakers).
Image courtesy of Tim Cipriano, New Haven Public Schools.