Throughout the summer, local kids were able to have access to free meals every day in the Romeoville and Bolingbrook area.
In 2016, Valley View School District 365U started a new summer program called VVSD Mobile Meals. VVSD serves both Romeoville and Bolingbrook, and there are three mobile sites in Romeoville and three in Bolingbrook that serve free lunches to children under 18 who qualify.
The program is completely federally funded under the Summer Food Service Program and serves more than 40,000 meals each summer.
Previously, the VVSD Nutrition Services Department had only served meals inside schools, and, on a daily basis, only one to 20 community members took part in the program.
“At that time, I realized that we needed to stop asking our customers to come to us, and, instead, we needed to go to our customers,” said Meghan Gibbons, director of nutrition services.
During the school year, VVSD helps 16,500 students with the National Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program, and many of these children are still in need of meals throughout the summer.
Valley View School District serves a student population of about 63% socioeconomically challenged students, Gibbons said.
“VVSD is always seeking to provide service to our students and families in every way possible,” she said.
All food for the Mobile Meals is prepared in one of the VVSD commercial kitchens. Then it is packed into hot or cold transport boxes until they are delivered and served.
The packaged bags of food are removed when the transportation vehicles arrive at each individual site, and the food is set in a serving line to serve to the kids.
Menus include lunches that children will enjoy but also offer nutritional value.
The meals can include choices of beef hot dogs, Uncrustables, fresh vegetables, fruit, fruit juice and skim milk.
Partnerships are a big part of the Mobile Meals program. To pull it all together, they joined forces with the VVSD Transportation Department and used the buses as “food trucks.”
VVSD’s Print Shop also assisted in producing all of the marketing and advertisements for the program.
Organizers are also on the lookout for more volunteers for next summer to help supervise sites and more. Anyone interested in volunteering for the program can visit vvsd.org/food.