The Hillsboro City Schools plan to take a summer feeding program on the road this year.
At Wednesday’s board of education meeting, the board voted 4-1 to approve a recommendation from superintendent Jim Smith to lease a summer food truck for 36 months at a cost of $4,126 per month, with a net residual due at the end of the lease of $25,000.
Board members Tom Milbery, Beverly Rhoads, Doug Ernst and Bill Myers voted in favor of the recommendation, while Larry Lyons voted against it.
Lyons noted that it was a $173,544 commitment and questioned if the kids that were going to be fed are kids that generally do not have enough to eat. He also asked if the board could have more time to study the need for the truck.
Treasurer Ben Teeters said the truck is being custom built for the school district and that if the district was going to meet its plan to take the feeding program on the road this summer, a vote was needed right away.
“We’ve got a great opportunity for reimbursement,” Smith said. “We know we have kids that are hungry and families that don’t have food. We can do this and pay for the truck over a number of years. …It’s really a continuation of what we do in the school year with free breakfasts, the free and reduced-price lunches, and the Power Packs for the weekend. We think with the capacity of the truck, we have a chance to do so much more. The need is there.”
Earlier this year Smith said that a year ago 57 percent of the school district’s students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches, and that this year 51.3 percent of the district’s 2,419 students qualify for those lunches. There are 75 students that receive meals to take home each weekend, and all the district’s students are offered a free breakfast.
Smith said that through a federal food program, if the school serves 300 or more meals a day in the summer, and he thinks it will, the school will be reimbursed $47,000 a year on the truck.
The school will have to pay at least three cooks to work in the truck during the summer months. There will also be expenses like insurance, fuel and maintenance for the truck.
The idea for a summer food truck came from Jessica Walker, the district’s director of food and nutrition services, who expects to drive the summer truck. The plan is to take the truck to high poverty areas like apartment complexes and the Rocky Fork area. Walker, who Smith described as possibly the best person in her position he’s ever been around, is still working on exact routes.
Teeters said the routes would likely be adjusted as the summer progresses, depending on where food is needed the most.
Teeters said that Walker has secured a $10,000 grant for the summer program from the Children’s Hunger Alliance, a $2,500 commitment from Pepsi to put a logo on the truck, and is trying to enter a recipe contest for a $1,000 grant.
Smith said Walker has contacted several apartment complexes about the idea and that the complex managers are excited about it.
“I think it’s a great idea, and meeting the primary needs of the students first is more important than education,” board member Tom Milbery said.
Lyons indicated that he was not necessarily opposed to the program, but wondered if established faith-based programs could fill the need, or if the school district could offer the program from its buildings. He said he visited eight of the possible stops on the route to see what was there and that they left “some opportunity for question.”
Smith said he didn’t think offering the program from the district buildings was practical.
“I think this is a smart business move and the right thing to do for our community,” Smith said.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.