Middletown’s ‘Middie Meal Machine’ in demand for school year after first summer serving lunches

Middletown school parent Franchesca Morgan knew it was lunch time and exactly where to go to feed her two children: The parking lot of Rosa Parks Elementary.

Morgan lined up with dozens of other school parents and children for a free, healthy lunch Friday courtesy of the first food truck in the city schools’ history.

The scene has been repeated at Butler County’s other larger districts, which in recent years have used food trucks during the school summer break to deliver free lunches to needy families.

Driving the new food programs is the reality that most larger school systems in the county have sizable portions of their students coming from families poor enough to qualify for federally subsidized free and reduced meals during the school year.

Three years ago Lakota was the first district in the county to launch a summer food truck program, followed later by Hamilton and Middletown this summer.

And this year Fairfield started its first summer lunch program but did not use a specially dedicated food truck, instead hauling lunches to two designated community sites each week day.

In Butler County, Middletown and New Miami Local Schools have 100 percent of their student populations eligible for free school meals in 2018. Hamilton has 68 percent of its enrollment listed as poor enough to qualify, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

Overall, Ohio is one of the most food insecure states in the nation, according to 2017 national report.

“I think it’s wonderful for the kids to give them some nourishment outside of the household during the summer time,” Morgan said.

“It’s a good resource for them and hopefully it can continue on for many years to come.”

That’s the plan, said Middletown School officials running the “Middie Meal Machine” food truck, which is already booked for many school and community events for the coming school year.

School food service officials in Middletown said the first summer of mobile meals has been a success.

“We have been more than happy with the outcome of service this summer,” said Jennifer Childers, operations manager for Sodexo School Services, which handles Middletown student food programs.

“Most days we were reaching over 100 students per day and we have learned a lot that will help us to plan for next summer.”

Lakota’s program, which uses two specially modified school buses to deliver weekday lunches to various parts of its district with higher concentrations of low-income families, continues to grow in popularity, said school officials.

“We served between 70 to 75 more meals per day this year, compared to last summer,” said Lakota spokeswoman Betsy Fuller. “That brings us to roughly 400 meals per (week) day, a new record for the program.

“We are proud to be able to provide this service to our families, as no child should be without a meal because school is out for the summer.”

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