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Bus does double duty for school nutrition program Photo: Chesapeake Schools

Bus does double duty for school nutrition program

Chesapeake Schools’ repurposed bus is both a rolling nutrition learning lab and a mobile feeding site.

The Cruisin Café and Nutrition Express is both a traveling classroom and a foodservice delivery system for the Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS) in Virginia. The dual purpose repurposed school bus provides nutrition education to the district’s 40,000 students over the course of the school year and then during the summer months and holiday breaks it travels to various locations across the city to deliver USDA-compliant meals to children.

The idea for the bus came in part because of a financial squeeze that had seen school field trips reduced. “Bringing the bus to the school allows students to have that field trip experience without leaving the campus,” says Joanne Kinsey, director of school nutrition services.

In the past six months, the mobile classroom has made 20 school visits reaching some 1,300 students, and Kinsey says community requests from public libraries and community family events filled the calendar for the months of May and June.

“The media coverage has been overwhelming,” she adds. “Local TV stations and newspapers ran several segments showcasing the latest addition to the Chesapeake educational setting.”

The bus is a communitywide initiative. Maintenance and upkeep is the responsibility of the school division but the vehicle is owned and operated through the CPS school nutrition department with the bus driver and dietitian both being school nutrition department staff. Meals offered through the mobile site meet all USDA school meal guidelines.

The bus is scheduled to hit the streets starting this summer, delivering meals during the week to various locations such as parks and recreation sites within the Chesapeake community during the months of June, July and August. These sites will be open to any child up to the age of 18.

“The bus will allow more children to receive meals when school is closed,” Kinsey says. “Nutrition education information will also be provided with the meals.”

The bus, an activity department vehicle that was no longer being used but needed a face-lift, was donated by the school division.

The school nutrition department spent about $40,000 on the refurbishing, which included the purchase and installation of a generator, exterior paint, the exterior and interior colorful wrap, tile flooring, construction and covering of padded seating, interior lighting, ramp construction, hot and cold food holding equipment, portable hand sink, and computer wiring and TV screens for laptop hookup. The money came from prior years' revenue from the summer foodservice program and grant funds from No Kid Hungry and the regional Dairy Council.

The renovation began in April of 2015 and rolled out to the public that August when it was showcased with tours at the district’s opening school administrative conference.

Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @MikeBuzalka

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