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Mobile Meal Bus Rolls Through Community This Summer

A brand-new Mobile Meal Bus will roll through the Nooksack Valley School District community this summer, feeding students for free.

Melissa Paulus, head of food service for the district, has pioneered the new plan for the summer, taking a surplus small school bus and turning it into a mobile platform in an easily recognizable operation (yellow school buses sure do help with name recognition and showing the program directly ties to the schools).

The plan, with government funding through a child nutrition program, will allow Nooksack Valley to make meals at Everson Elementary and then load the bus to deliver them to three different community locations for lunch throughout the day.

Starting July 10 and running Monday through Thursday through Aug. 10—the timeframe starts one week before summer school begins and coincides with the summer program—the bus will first stop at Sumas Elementary from 11:20 to 11:40 a.m., then move to Nooksack City Park from noon to 12:20 p.m. before wrapping up the day at Everson City Park from 12:30 to 12:50 p.m. All community children 18 and younger are invited to stop by for the free lunch.

“The whole goal of this is to feed children in the summer, especially those who depend on free breakfast and lunch during the school year,” Paulus says. “There is no applications or enrollment. We make it very simple for kids to show up and get a meal.”

For those students in the summer school program, breakfasts are available as they enter the school and lunches are available to them as they leave for the day if they are unable to make it to the city parks for pickup. Typically students attending summer school, information has shown, are also some of the same students who have food insecurities at home.

To give variety to each day and each week—and to provide food she knows students enjoy eating—Paulus says the bus will serve both a hot entrée and a cold option. The hot options will rotate by the day and include chicken burgers, chicken nuggets, pizza and mini burgers, items that are easily wrapped and kept warm in special containers on the bus. Other options for lunch include peanut butter and jelly or deli sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, fruit, veggies and milk. The health department has already signed off on the food preparation and transportation method.

Because it's the first year of the bus, Paulus says they are keeping it simple. They pulled out most of the seats—leaving the first row—and Paulus will install eyehooks to allow her to strap in containers. She’s hoping the program proves successful and she can land grants to do more in the future inside the bus in terms of temperature control.

For this summer, though, expect to see the Mobile Meal Bus pepper the community with free meals for students.