Bradenton, Florida -- Many students from low-income families who eat breakfast and lunch at school might go hungry during the summer. While agencies offer meals to these kids, parents either don't have transportation or work during the day and cannot get to the sites.
Now, the Manatee County School District has found a way to bring the meals to them.
The vehicle looks like a school bus but is wrapped with brightly colored photos of the four food groups. The former Manatee school bus still serves children, except that instead of a ride to school delivers free lunches.
Students step into a mobile lunch room and on the menu they find a different balanced meal each day including ¾ cups of fruits and vegetables. On this day they get broccoli, peaches, baked chips and a cheeseburger on whole-grain bread along with low fat white milk or fat-free chocolate milk.
"Pretty good hamburger," says 12-year-old Nina Bush.
The county's first mobile feeding unit, which the children call the "food bus," is also welcomed by parents like Teresa Nerf who is on a budget.
"We are on a $75 a week budget. That's it. In the summer time we have to stretch it," she said.
Teresa's son Nathan also enjoys the food. "I liked it so much I wanted another one," said Nathan, who went back for seconds.
The food bus stops in three neighborhoods Monday through Friday and serves more than 100 children each day. If the program does well this year the school district may add another bus next summer.
The Manatee district serves more than 44,000 breakfasts, lunches and snacks during the school year compared to 12,000 meals and snacks during the summer. District officials say the food bus helps them reach more needy students during the summer.
"Some would go hungry during the summer. When you see them get on that bus they are ready for a meal," says Skye Grundy, Manatee County School District Food Nutrition Program.
The district expects to feed about 600 children the mobile feeding unit each week in addition to the district's existing summer food programs.
Teresa says, "Helps a lot we appreciate it."
The food bus program runs through August 8 and is paid by the United States Department of Agriculture.