On the first official day of summer vacation, children living in the Linton Oaks, Hidden Oaks and Tower Oaks apartment complexes in Gainesville did most what most students on summer break wouldn’t dream about — they ran toward the school bus that pulled up to their complexes on Monday.
When they got to the bus, they had a choice: peanut butter or grilled cheese.
Alachua County Public Schools launched its Mobile Meal program yesterday in efforts to make sure that children who rely on free or reduced lunch during the school year don’t go hungry over the summer.
The program is part of the school district’s Food and Nutrition Services Summer Meals Program.
The Mobile Meals bus served about 20 children at each of the three locations on its first day. Lunch included a sandwich with cucumber slices, dip and a drink. Chocolate milk was a favorite.
After grabbing their lunch, the children grabbed toys from a plastic bin filled with books and toys like bubbles, basketballs, jump ropes and hula-hoops.
Asia Graham, a resident at Linton Oaks, stopped by the bus with her six year old daughter for lunch. Graham said she thinks having the summer meals delivered to the neighborhood will help mothers who are not able to provide three meals a day for their children.
“It’s something to get the kids organized to come out, interact with other children and give them time to learn what’s nutritious meals in the morning and evening,” Graham said.
She said her daughter is particular about her what she eats.
“She’s a picky eater so, I hope she can eat something out of the meals that she doesn’t eat at home,” Graham said.
Vanessa Leath, assistant manager at P.K. Young Developmental Research School, handed out meals to the children at each location.
Leath said she hopes more children will come each day after people start hearing about the program. She said so far, the children who came for the meals are enjoying the meals and toys.
“When we bring the food to the locations, all the kids that didn’t get a chance to eat breakfast or lunch are so excited to come,” Leath said. “Then we also offer the games and stuff so the kids are having lots and lots of fun.”
Caron Rowe, a food service specialist who also works in marketing and promotions for the Alachua County Public Schools, said she thinks more children will come once children and parents tell their neighbors about the meals.
“The kids were definitely excited to see the lunches, but they were also excited to see our toy box that had lots of things for them to pull out and play with as well,” Rowe said.
The buses will continue to serve the apartment complexes each day, Monday through Thursday, throughout the summer.