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Food Truck in Snohomish County Gets Free Meals to Kids in the Summer!

by Danielle Baer |

Originally published in Washington School Nutrition Association's Spring 2017 Edition of Washington Apple Press

In Washington, families spend an average of $300 more a month on food in the summer. Children who rely on free and reduced priced school lunches during the school year often go hungry during this time. Fortunately, there are funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for summer meals through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), but transportation to these sites can be challenging, particularly in rural areas. When it comes to summer feeding, the Snohomish School District has taken a unique approach in Washington by implementing a food truck to serve free meals to children and youth in rural parts of the district.

Historically, the school district has served SFSP summer meals at Snohomish High School, the Snohomish Boys and Girls Club, the Snohomish Aquatic Center and two mobile home parks. Marty Grasa, the Director of Dining Services at Snohomish School District, said “the geographic limitations that we have in Snohomish are that there are some areas that are more rural; some kids aren’t able to travel to Snohomish High School for a meal.” For many years, the district used a van donated through a local auto dealership to deliver meals to sites. Last summer, the district and its food service provider Chartwells purchased a food truck, which has made the distribution and serving of meals more efficient.

In the summer of 2016, 15,646 meals were served remotely to children and youth at four locations in the district, and another 10,918 breakfasts and lunches were served at Snohomish High School. Combined, the district served 26,564 meals that summer.

The increased efficiency of the food truck is an encouraging step towards ending childhood hunger in Washington State; however, as many in this work know, it can be challenging to find staff or recruit volunteers to prepare, serve or administer meals. As long as there is a need for food among children and youth in the summer there will be a need for staff to serve them. The Snohomish School District goes from serving about 9,800 meals per day during the school year to about 1,300 meals per day in the summer, indicating a need for more summer meals and in turn staff. Last year, through the district’s close work with student, religious and community groups, they received help from more than 200 community volunteers.

The food truck was and continues to be a success in the Snohomish School District. Grasa is excited about the progress being made and contemplates other ways to expand, including utilizing the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which serves meals afterschool and is also funded by the USDA. Grasa says that the Snohomish School District has “2500-3000 compliant recipes ready to go. We have all of the facilities and resources to do it, it’s just a matter of staff.”

Grasa says that today in the Snohomish School District, more kids are receiving the meals they need to develop at a healthy rate - “When I was in school there was no summer feeding program, which I certainly would have taken advantage of.” Stay tuned for updates from the Snohomish School District in summer 2017!

Contact Marty Grasa, the Director of Dining Services at Snohomish School District, at Marty.Grasa@sno.wednet.edu for more information about the food truck or other meals work in the district. For general questions about afterschool and summer meals programs in Washington State contact Natalie Kahn at nkahn@schoolsoutwashington.org.

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