3 tips for establishing a summer school-feeding program

School Nutrition Association president Julia Bauscher shares how she launched an initiative in her district near Louisville, Ky.

Published in FSD K-12 Spotlight

Katie Fanuko, Associate Editor

As school lets out for the summer, districts nationwide grapple with the problem of helping underfed students when they’re not heading into a classroom everyday. To address the issue in her community of Jefferson County, Ky., Director of School and Community Nutrition Services Julia Bauscher worked with the district to launch a program in 2013 called the Bus Stop Café. Retrofitted school buses are used to bring meals to students via 15 locations throughout the community. Bauscher, this year’s president of the School Nutrition Association, shares some takeaways from her experience.

1. Get multiple stakeholders involved

The Bus Stop Café concept was a district-wide effort that came to fruition when the district’s transportation department donated a bus that was older but still fully functional. When no outside parties offered to retrofit the bus, the district’s maintenance department did the work. “The way that the departments and the district came together to make this a reality was wonderful,” Bauscher says.

This summer, the program is bringing the larger community into the fold. Local police and fire departments will be visiting the bus’ routes to host safety training sessions for students and their parents. Additionally, a local arts group plans to host art and crafts classes for students.

2. Be flexible with meal planning

While the district was prepared to feed school-aged children, they didn’t anticipate parents bringing toddlers to the bus stops and didn’t have age-appropriate food available. Bauscher asked her staff at the district’s central kitchen to create a meal fit for toddlers and was able to offer it the next day. “We had moms in tears because there was food available for their youngest children,” she says.

3.Go where the kids are

A school’s cafeteria kitchen may be available for a program, but kids may be unable to get there every day, especially in a rural area like Jefferson County. This was one of the reasons Bauscher’s district opted for a mobile program. “Being able to take meals on the road and serve them in their neighborhood, at the public pool or the river boat dock where they are playing helps us to ensure that they have access to meals when school is out,” Bauscher says.

The Bus Stop Café’s two vehicles travel separate routes throughout the community to ensure that a large swath of the community is covered. Each spring, Bauscher and the district meet with local partners like the Dare To Care Food Bank in Louisville, Ky. to determine which additional areas need a bus stop.

“Those types of efforts and collaboration is what helps us raise the profile of the program,” she says.

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