The Hillsboro City Schools Tomahawk food truck’s last stop of the day in the Rocky Fork Lake area near Hillsboro on Friday was also its last of the summer, as the program wrapped up for the season after having served more than 24,387 meals to area schoolchildren since May, according to Hillsboro Food Service Director Jessica Walker.
The summer nutrition program, in its third year of serving free meals to kids at stops throughout the Hillsboro area during the summer break from school, saw a significant increase in meals served this year, up from a total of 22,026 in the previous season.
Walker said that some other changes this year were the addition of new stops, the discontinuation of others, and the inclusion of, “teaching staff and other school employees to the ranks of, ‘Lunch Ladies’ and ‘Lunch Dudes.’” She noted, “The kids have absolutely loved seeing their teachers work the food truck. I think the teachers that have worked this summer have loved it just as much.”
Walker said that the food truck is a needed resource in the community, with “55 percent of students” who are “at or below the poverty level.” That’s with mroe than 1,200 students in the district, according to Walker.
“Many of those students,” Walker noted, “are able to access our free summer program… So we can help our neighbors, too.” She said, “Childhood hunger is a very real aspect of my students’ lives and the reward is knowing I have done a very small part of helping with childhood hunger.”
The Children’s Hunger Alliance recognized the Tomahawk program as the Summer Nutrition Program Of The Year for 2018, an honor that Walker described as humbling. “It wasn’t just me,” she said. “It was a whole bunch of Lunch Ladies really just doing what they love to do, and that is to feed hungry kids.”
The Tomahawk food truck program in Hillsboro was one of only five similar programs statewide to be honored for its efforts by the Columbus-based organization in a February ceremony attended by Walker and food truck site manager, Anna Aber.
Walker said Aber was instrumental in “starting this whole thing into action” when a previous summer lunch program disbanded, leaving Aber, “devastated the kids were not going to get fed that summer.”
While it was too late to get another food program organized that year, Walker said, “The following year, we worked really hard, and got the Tomahawk approved.”
Walker said that the best part about the program is, “the relationships with the kids and the community that we are building. We had multiple donations from local businesses for our kick off event, which allowed us to feed adults that day, as well,” she said.
”We are so thankful for all the love and support we receive from the staff, community, board and, of course, the kids,” she added.
For more information about Hillsboro City Schools Tomahawk food truck summer nutrition program, access its Facebook page @HCSTomahawkFoodTruck.
Juliane Cartaino is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.