Summer meals' programs latest victim of economic hardship

Food programs hard to sustain in rural areas.

July 12--This summer, when South Side Area School District in the southwest corner of Beaver County sent home a flier with locations where children could get "free, healthy meals," parents at Harshbarger Mobile Home Park in Hookstown were upset by the changes.

"I threw it away when I saw it," one mother said. "How's that going to help me?"

Last summer, kids at Harshbarger had to walk only a few feet down the dirt and gravel roads of their trailer court to reach the Lunch Bus, a converted school bus that the district sent to three trailer parks in the county. Any child who showed up could eat a free meal on the bus, which was packed with coolers of food.

This year, South Side was forced to shut down its summer meals programs. To get the free meal their kids qualify for, parents at Harshbarger have to drive them 12 miles to a site run by another school district, a more than 20-minute ride on winding rural roads. None of the parents interviewed say they are willing or able to make the trip.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources