The Danville school division is expanding its food truck program.
Two new programs will begin in October including a lunch food truck going to a different school in the city each week and an after-school family style meal at a different location in Danville each day.
“Each week, we’ll pick a different school [for the lunch program] and pick a different grade level within that week within that school,” said Phillip Gardner, Danville Public Schools’ director of child nutrition.
The lunch food truck will offer a menu of free food that’s separate from the schools’ regular lunch fare.
The Meals After School program will offer free food for children in different locations throughout the community, with a menu including sloppy joes, chicken wings, house-cut fries, a McRib-style meal and healthier items, Gardner said.
To encourage families to dine together, adults also will be able to eat at the table for the Meals After School, for a small price.
“It will offer tables and chairs outside with a welcoming atmosphere,” Gardner said.
The new services are in addition to the summer food truck that rolled to locations Monday through Thursday in the city with free meals for children.
That program served 43,000 meals during June and July to an average of 150-200 students a day.
The area need for free meals for children comes in light of a study conducted by Feeding America Southwest Virginia — headquartered in Salem, it’s the Virginia branch of the national food bank Feeding America — which revealed one in eight people in the region face what is known as food insecurity.
Food insecurity references a lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for members of a household coupled with limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.
With efforts like the free summer meals program, the city school system hopes to bridge the gap between the one in six children in the region who suffer from food insecurity and access to healthy meals.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Danville Public Schools Superintendent Stanley Jones.
The summer feeding program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Another grant-funded program by the USDA also provides breakfast, lunch and snacks to all children who attend a public city school when class is in session.
“When students have nutritious meals, especially at the beginning of the day, they are better prepared for a successful day of learning,” said Anne Moore-Sparks, community outreach and business partnership specialist with Danville Public Schools. “With innovative thinking, DPS is excited to feed additional students with this initiative.”
The school division is reimbursed for the summer program based on the number of meals served.
“That money gets put back into the program,” Garner said. “We push it so we can get reimbursement dollars, so we can offer new initiatives.”
Two schools in Danville — George Washington High School and Bonner Middle School — currently offer after-school meals, but not from a food truck.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.