It’s that time of year again that most schoolchildren throughout the United States eagerly anticipate each year, counting down the last weeks, days, hours and even minutes until that final bell rings marking the end of the school year – and the start of summer vacation.
The conventional wisdom is that all children cannot wait for that first day of summer break – sleeping in without an alarm clock, lazy fun-filled days hanging out with friends around a swimming pool on a hot sunny day, family vacations, summer camps, and more.
But that is sadly not the case for thousands of children in Hancock and Hawkins counties in rural, Appalachian Tennessee.
For these children, their summer days are filled with hunger, worry and wonder – when are they going to get their next meal with school closed for the next eight weeks or so?
Without the certainty of a meal or even two that comes with a school day, these children scrounge around their bare cupboards in an empty kitchen looking for something, anything edible.
And this is no exaggeration or hyperbole, but a simple and heartbreaking fact, even in the United States of America in 2019 there are children going hungry and their parents cannot afford to buy food for them.
That is why Rev. Sheldon Livesay, founder and director Of One Accord, Americans Helping Americans® partner serving these two counties, developed the idea of the Lunch Box bus.
While children in urban areas and small towns are able to walk to their school buildings and community centers in their neighborhoods for the free meals offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, that is not feasible for children who live 10 miles from their school.
So, Rev. Livesay figured that if the children cannot come to lunch, he will bring lunch to them.
For the past several years, Americans Helping Americans® has supported the operation of the Lunch Box bus program, covering the costs associated with operating the buses – “retired” school buses that are seeing new life reborn as mobile cafeterias on wheels.
This year, Of One Accord, plans on delivering about 270 meals each weekday for 40 days between Monday, June 3, and Friday, July 26, making for a total of 10,800 meals.
Among the restrictions of operating a summer food service program, the USDA, which provides the food for the program, requires that the children must eat their meal while at the school or community center, or in this case, on the bus, thereby ensuring that the children get the meal and it is not taken from them by an older sibling or even parent.