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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014
Education

Free kids' summer meals roll into Hillsborough

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DOVER – Anahi Trejo, 8, sat with her siblings at a picnic table on the grounds of the San Jose Mission in Dover, taking bites of a bologna and cheese sandwich and slurping chocolate milk.

Nearby was the yellow school bus that will deliver free breakfast and lunch five days a week this summer to any child under 18.

Hillsborough County school buses will provide summer meals at this location and seven others in migrant communities where families might have trouble reaching one of the many school sites that offer free summer meals.

Anahi’s family lives in Plant City, but her mother — Lorena Ponce — comes to the mission to take English classes. She plans to bring Anahi, her 4-year-old brother Danny and 2-year-old sister Jacquelyn to eat there every day.

“It’s great because sometimes we have little work and the money is too tight,” said Ponce, who cleans houses for a living. Her husband has a job in construction.

During the academic year, many children from low-income families get their only nutritious meals at school, where they are eligible for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch. Summertime can add stress for families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Each summer, the school district serves more than 200,000 breakfasts and 300,000 lunches at its feeding sites, which include places with summer school programs and camps.

The bus program — Movin’ Meals — was added to the mix three summers ago, with four sites.

“Families are struggling and they’re unable to offer their children a full nutritious meal,” said Ginain Grayes, a spokeswoman for the district’s student nutrition services department. “We thought the need was there and why not bring the meals to the kids.”

Last summer, the program expanded to eight sites in Dover, Plant City and Wimauma, and served 5,700 breakfasts and 9,200 lunches. This year, two Gibsonton sites were added into the rotation. Grayes expects more children will flock to the buses this year.

“Especially since there’s a lot more awareness out in the community,” she said. “This is a real hot topic now.”

Two school buses are being revamped to include the Movin’ Meals logo on their sides and tables inside where children can eat. Grayes hopes to take the program a step further, by coming up with ways to use the buses during the school year.

The buses began delivering breakfasts and lunches last Monday and will continue through Aug. 8.

This summer, Reddick Elementary School food production coordinator Maricely Mendez and bus driver Allison Taylor will deliver meals at four stops, including the one in Dover.

This is Taylor’s eighth year as a driver in Hillsborough and her second year working the summer program.

“Last year, we met a lot of kids.” she said.

On Monday, Mendez and Taylor passed boxed lunches filled with bologna sandwiches, raisins and mixed fruit to any child who showed up. The children can eat on the air-conditioned school bus or on nearby picnic tables under a tent.

The bus program has become a fixture in some of the communities it serves.

Elsie Jiminez brought her three young children to eat at the Dover site every day last summer and she plans for them to do the same this year.

“They’re always asking to come to the bus,” said Mendez, translating for Jiminez, who speaks Spanish. “It’s very helpful.”

ekourkounis@tampatrib.com

(813)259-7999

Twitter: @ErinKTBO

 

Summer meal sites

San Jose Mission: 3238 San Jose Mission Road, Dover

Breakfast: 7:30 to 8 a.m.

Lunch: 11:15 to 11:45 a.m.

Speer Mobile Home Park: 5206 Gabby Ct., Plant City

Breakfast: 8:15 to 8:45 a.m.

Lunch: Noon to 12:30 p.m.

Park Springs Apartments: 300 Park Springs Circle, Plant City

Breakfast: 9 to 9:30 a.m.

Lunch: 12:45 to 1:15 p.m.

Oakbrook Mobile Home Park: 440 4 State Road 574, Plant City

Breakfast: 9:45 to 10:15 a.m.

Lunch: 1:30 to 2 p.m.

RCMA La Estancia: 5292 Guadalupe Blvd., Wimauma

Breakfast: 7:30 to 8 a.m.

Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to noon

RCMA Wimauma Groves, 5316A Sun Paradise Ct., Wimauma

Breakfast: 8:15 to 8:45 a.m.

Lunch: 12:15 to 12:45 p.m.

Alafia Mobile Home Plaza: 11888 S U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton

Breakfast: 9:15 to 9:45 a.m.

Lunch: 1:15 to 1:45 p.m.

Hide Away Mobile Home Park, 11310 S U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton

Breakfast: 10 to 10:30 a.m.

Lunch: 2 to 2:30 p.m.

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