The moment it came into view bicycles came buzzing out of nowhere and vehicles suddenly appeared almost as if they had been following it. It is the Hillsboro City Schools’ new food truck that made its first rounds Monday.
The truck will continue to make six stops each weekday through Aug. 4, although it will not deliver meals the week of July Fourth.
This Wednesday alone the truck served 625 meals, according to Jessica Walker, the school district’s director of food and nutrition services.
The new summer food program started May 30. While the school was originally told the 18-foot truck it purchased for somewhere around $100,000 would be ready in early June, it was not delivered until June 16.
Prior to that, the school had been serving the meals from a rented trailer pulled by a pickup truck.
“It’s 100 times better just getting around town in it,” Walker said. “It also has a lift gate that makes loading food onto it much easier, and two warmers as opposed to one on the trailer. It’s just so much more convenient and safe. It’s sharp and people can recognize it.”
Walker said she has seen an increase in the number of lunches served in the few days the new truck has been in service. She said that through Wednesday, the truck had served about 600 more meals during the week than it had in previous weeks. When she spoke to the Hillsboro Board of Education earlier this year about purchasing the truck, said she believed the district could serve about 500 meals a day in the summer.
“We’ve been averaging about 350 meals daily, but we hope to have that up to 500 pretty soon with the new truck,” Walker said.
The truck stops and hands out meals at the following locations and approximate times:
• Hillsboro High School at 10:30 a.m.
• Hillsboro central offices at the old school site off West Main Street at 11 a.m.
• Treewood Apartments at 11:30 a.m.
• Cedar Woods Apartments at 11:45 a.m.
• Fire station on North East Street at 12:15 p.m.
• Rocky Fork State Park North Beach area at 1 p.m.
On Wednesdays, the truck stops at Peace Lutheran Church on Harry Sauner Road about the same time the weekly free movies end at Star Cinemas. They take a food van to the nearby Cedar Woods Apartments that day.
Walker said about 120 meals are served each Wednesday at the church.
The are three rules, Walker said, that those receiving the meals must observe:
• They have to 18 or under;
• They have to stay and eat at the location where the meals are delivered;
• The children must come to the food truck themselves to pick-up a meal – they can be carried or accompanied by somone.
“That’s one of the biggest problems,” Walker said. “People want to come and get six bags, but we can’t do that. We have to see the kids because we get reimbursed by the state and that’s one of their rules.”
The meals are prepared at the Hillsboro Elemetary School cafeteria and are pretty much like a regular school lunch. For instance, Thursday’s meal consisted of spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic toast, Italian vegetables, a fruit slushy, milk and a cookie.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but I think we’re enjoying it,” Walker said. “Participation is about where I expected it to be and I think it’s only going to get bigger with the new truck.”
Walker previously said she has been awarded several grants that helped reduce the cost of the truck and that there are tentative plans to use it during other times throughout the school year.
During the school year, approximately 50 percent of the district’s students are on an income-based program that gives them free or reduced-price lunches, and about 75 kids receive meals to take home each weekend. The school also offers several free breakfast options to all its students during the school year.
“Just come on out and check out the truck. The excitement when we pull up is almost like we need to do crowd control because they all want to see the truck and be the first in line,” Walker said. “Hopefully, the community feels it’s beneficial. We feel like it is because we know there are hungry kids out there.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org