‘Cafeteria On Wheels’

School Divisions Aim To Keep Students Fed During Winter Break
By MEGAN WILLIAMS
Daily News-Record  12/19/19
 
For two weeks, students will be out of school for winter break and Harrisonburg City Public Schools wants to do what it can to make sure they get meals during that time.
According to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, in its coverage area 131,880 households were food insecure in 2018. And one in eight children struggle with hunger.
One place students are guaranteed at least two hot meals a day is school. No student is ever denied a hot meal, said Andrea Early, executive director of nutrition for the school division.
But what happens to students when they’re out of school for winter break, spring break and summer? The school division has no control over whether students are getting enough to eat during this time.
But it can help.
For the past three years, the school division’s Mobile Café has been making periodic stops in neighborhoods throughout the city during breaks and summer vacation.
“It’s our cafeteria on wheels,” Early said.
The Mobile Café makes the same stops so that parents learn where to expect it, which increases participation.
Although participation in the Mobile Café is higher during the summer, Early expected to feed 150 kids during the cafe’s two planned stops over winter break.
The meals are paid for through the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program at no cost to the school division. Because of this, the school division is able to offer meals to any child under the age of 18 without consideration of economic status. The Mobile Café will visit eight stops on consecutive Thursdays, serving some of their more popular meals. There will also be a learning component each day. The first Thursday the lesson will be on pomegranates and the second Thursday will be on star fruit.
There will be three people manning the Mobile Café and two volunteers at each stop, Early said. The volunteers are likely going to be teachers, principals and staff members — people already familiar with the students.
It’s also a chance for teachers to interact with students and families in their neighborhoods.
Although it’s just two meals over two weeks, it’s something to help make sure kids are eating this winter break.
“It doesn’t meet all the needs, but it does give parents a break,” Early said.
While Rockingham County Public Schools does not have a program to feed kids over the break, they do offer a backpack program throughout the year that will continue over break, said Gerald Lehman, director of food services.
“Kids who are economically challenged have the benefit from food being sent home on the weekend,” Lehman said. “That will continue over break.”
The backpack program is through the school division, but provided for by local organizations and churches, Lehman said.
RCPS also provides lunches for all students during summer school.
Meals will be provided from the HCPS Mobile Café at the following locations on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2:
• Spotswood Mobile Home Park, 715 Country Club Ct., 11 a.m. until 11:15 a.m.
• Chestnut Ridge, 181 Chestnut Ridge Dr., 11:25 a.m. until 11:40 a.m.
• Deer Run, 899 Port Republic Rd., 11:55 a.m. until 12:10 p.m.
• Mosby Heights, 2510 Mosby Ct., 12:25 p.m. until 12:40 p.m.
• University Place, 36 South Ave., 12:50 p.m. until 1:15 p.m.
• Broad Street Community Center, 505 Broad St., 1:30 p.m. until 1:50 p.m.
• Harris Gardens, 215 Vine St., 2 p.m. until 2:15 p.m.
• Dutch Mill/Holly Court, 97 Dutch Mill Ct., 2:25 p.m. until 2:45 p.m.