Capital School District in Delaware is a full CEP (Community Eligibility Provision) certified district where all 6,700 students qualify for free school meals. Because of its high poverty rate, the district is especially concerned about making sure as many students as possible have access to the school meal program, both when school is in session and, especially, when it is not, such as during the summer.
But while Capital does have a strong summer feeding program, there is concern that it is not reaching some areas located away from the meal sites.
So the district recently did what a growing number of school systems are now doing: It’s going mobile with a new food truck that will be able to set up at different locations around the district.
“[The truck] supports the activities of the kids if they are going on field trips and things like that [during the school year], but its main focus is summer feeding,” says Supervisor of Child Nutrition James Trower. “We’ll have several areas [such as] housing developments we’ll be visiting, areas where kids who attend district schools live quite a distance away from the school and if they can’t come to the school [to access the fixed site summer feeding program there], then we felt that we had a need to go to them and [one good way] to do that is with a food truck.”
To introduce the new meals on wheels option, and to give the school nutrition department a chance to test it out in action, the truck—called Chef Senator’s—made a trial run on the Martin Luther King Day holiday January 16.
The truck ended up feeding 72 children at two stops on a winter day that turned out to be sunny early but chillier as the day progressed. Despite that, the participation was better at the second stop, Trower reports.
The menu was simple but attractive: a turkey sandwich, cream of vegetable soup, milk and a chocolate cookie. Everything was prepared and loaded on the vehicle at the district’s high school site. Just in case, enough food was prepared to serve around 200 meals, and the food was kept at the right temperature thanks to the vehicle’s onboard refrigeration and heating capabilities.
The two stops were a minimal schedule “just to get out in the community and introduce it,” Trower says, a marketing effort for the food truck that will also be supported by mentions on the district website and through social media.
The trial run did yield some lessons for the nutrition services team.
“We’ll want to purchase collapsible trash cans so we can dispose properly of any trash in the area [where the truck sets up],” Trower says. “Also we should have caution signs we can put out as the truck is usually parked on the street and sometimes children have to cross the street.”
The truck was purchased for $147,000 using federal grants and was decorated by the three winners of a student contest, one an elementary grader, one a middle schooler and one a high schooler. They came up with and designed the graphics, the logo and the accompanying motto: Fresh Food With a Groove.
The logo features the district’s Senator mascot with a chef’s hat instead of his usual tricorne.
“He just changed hats,” Trower quips.