Thousands miss out on free lunch delivery in Nampa

Cries of “pizza” could be heard as the bus pulled up to the stop at the corner of First Avenue North and North Gateway Street in Nampa on Tuesday morning.

Three young students who attend Snake River Elementary were eagerly waiting the lunchtime favorite from the lunch bus, which was blaring Christmas music like a festive ice cream truck.

All three students got pizza, and danced home to the adjacent apartment complex. One was too excited, and ran off without her pizza, making it several steps before realizing she was only holding tomorrow’s breakfast.

The bus from Snake River Elementary, delivering 114 meals on Tuesday, is the sole route in Nampa School District delivering meals to multiple stops daily. The district gives out about 1,200 free lunches every day, a dramatic decrease from pre-COVID-19 days when the district was serving about 9,000 total lunches to students.

District Director of Communications and Community Relations Kathleen Tuck said the district is hoping to get more children meals.

Tuck said the district, which announced on Nov. 26 that it was moving to online distance learning through Jan. 13, has consolidated its bus routes to reach those families who are in higher need. There are also 300 families who are currently signed up for box deliveries, as they are outside the radius of the pick-up spots.

Low income families make up 56% of the student population in Nampa School District and 86% of the students at Snake River Elementary (student population 366 in 2020). And with a total student body of about 13,000 this year, Tuck said there is great concern about students not getting the food that they need.

“We’d like to get out a lot more,” Tuck said. “It’s very concerning. And a lot of it is people don’t realize that there is lunch pick up. And there are a lot of kids where this is their only meal for the day. I don’t want kids to go hungry.”

The lunches are free to all children who are between the ages of 1 and 18 (students don’t have to be a student of the district to receive a meal). All information on the program, including the bus route, can be found HERE.

Tuck added that the holiday season is also extra difficult for some families. Without class in session many students are unable to get their school lunch.

“Some are falling through the cracks,” she said.

But Tuck said the numbers are going up. And with the holiday season in full swing, the district has added a festive new aspect to its bus routes: music.

The buses are playing Christmas classics as they pull up to their stops, signaling the arrival of the day’s lunch for those students and families who lost track of the time.

Tuck said the district is hoping to get music for when the holidays are over, saying they may even transition into classic ice cream truck jingles.

Part of the district’s meal distribution includes a large army of roller coolers that are used to transfer the food. Tuck said the district purchased about 200 coolers, which are used to deliver meals and also to bring meals to classrooms when students are in class (students are not eating meals in the cafeteria, to keep the group sizes to a minimum).

One complaint that Tuck said the district has heard a lot is that the meals the school gives out are just a cold sandwich. Nutrition Services Secretary and Benefit Issuance Specialist Sabrina Meyers said the district is working hard to get more hot meals off the buses, and add more variety.

“Some of these kids are walking a long way to get lunch. The least we can do is give them a hot meal,” Meyers said. “To get home with a hot piece of pizza makes it more worth it.”

 

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