CONVERSE — While nourishing young minds is always the goal of the Judson Independent School District, this summer a converted school bus will nourish young bodies by serving free food.
The recently unveiled JISD feeding unit on wheels is pulling up as vacation time looms. Educators often worry about a nutrition gap during the school break, when it’s believed many kids don’t eat with the regularity they do when class is in session.
To answer that concern, the mobile program will provide dozens of meals per day.
“Good nutrition doesn’t end when school is out. It needs to continue and make itself available to students that are in our community,” said Janet Daniel, director of the district’s Child Nutrition Department.
Known as Bus’N Meals, the vehicle features a full-size food warmer, refrigerator, four steam wells to serve meals and keep them hot, multicolored LED lights, comfortable seating, device-charging stations and nutritional education for students.
Bus’N Meals debuts at the new Converse Public Library, 601 S. Seguin Road, June 11 through July 19, 11:30 a.m. to noon weekdays.
In addition to the food service, the library will have preschool story time at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays for younger tykes and Fine Arts Fridays at 10:30 a.m., featuring dancing, singing and musical performances.
“Fridays will be really cool. We will have several different performers. That’s going to be our really neat one (program),” said Derika Bailey, library director.
In July, the site will also have a Gaming Club from 2-4 p.m. Students getting meals are welcome to check out books from the library.
The Summer Food Service Program is open to students 18 and younger and isn’t only limited to low-income or JISD attendees.
No student identification required; Bus’N Meals’ staff won’t ask for names. Youngsters simply show up and receive a free meal, the most popular being the spicy chicken burger.
“As we all know, teenagers can be hard to impress at times, but I couldn’t help but beam with pride when students got on the bus and said, ‘Wow!’” said Carlie Rauschuber, a JISD registered dietitian.
Food workers are focused on serving readily available, quality sustenance to schoolchildren.
“The part I like the most is giving our students access to healthy, nutritious meals during summer months in a new and exciting way,” Rauschuber said. “We all worked hard to make Bus’N Meals come to fruition, and we can finally share our success with students and the community.”
The man who helped steer the food bus from dream to reality agreed.
“Being a part of this particular project was very memorable and rewarding,” said Steven Rodriguez, coordinator of child nutrition at JISD. “I saw the Bus’N Meals project mature from drawings to serving nutritious meals to children in the community.”
He added, “I am hoping that this project will be memorable to the students who participate. The whole thing behind the bus was being able to take the food to the kids who wouldn’t normally be able to go and eat.”
In addition to the vehicle, the following campuses will be open for free meals: Veterans Memorial High School, 7618 Evans Road; Metzger Middle School, 7475 Binz-Engleman Road; Masters Elementary School, 2650 Woodlake Parkway; Copperfield Elementary School, 7595 E. Loop 1604 North; and Salinas Elementary School, 10560 Old Cimarron Trail in Universal City.
Activities such as the Boys & Girls Club, Adventure Clubs Summer Camp Enrichment Program and summer school will occur here, too.
“We’re just excited to have our name out there and for the community to know what is available for them,” Daniel said.
To find a meal near you, call 211 or text FOODTX to 877-877.
Menu and location information for Bus’N Meals can be found at judsonisd.nutrislice.com/menu and squaremeals.org.