Since June 19th, the Lunchbox food truck has served over 1800 free youth meals in Barton, Newport, and Derby, Vermont. The Lunchbox is a free summer meal site and mobile learning kitchen operated in partnership by Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS) and the Abbey Food Service Group. The program aims to provide the community with healthy and locally-sourced meals throughout the summer months; children and teens 18 and under eat for free and adults are offered affordable meals for purchase.
This summer, in addition to lunch service in Barton and Newport on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the Lunchbox expanded its offerings to include free dinners through the month of July from 5 pm to 7 pm Monday through Friday at North Country Union Junior High School.In just six weeks the program has exceeded the number of free meals that were distributed over a ten-week period last summer.
“We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to reach so many children and teens with free meals this summer,” says Amrita Parry, Food Hub Accounts Manager at GMFTS, “this is an important part of GMFTS’s strategy to increase access to healthy, local food in the Northeast Kingdom.”
A popular NEK soccer camp is held at the fields located behind the Junior High School in Derby, and the Lunchbox has been on site every night to help feed the hundreds of hungry soccer players and ease the stress of families looking for a healthy dinner option. “As a mother of children involved in sports, I know first hand how challenging it can be to get a healthy meal on the table during busy weeknights,” says Catherine Cusack, Executive Director at GMFTS, “I love that the Lunchbox is able to offer active children a free, healthy, locally-sourced alternative for dinner,” she says, “and that there are affordable meals for parents to purchase as well!”
Another new addition to the Lunchbox this summer includes the piloting of a free vegetable give-away program. Twice this summer, GMFTS staff have brought surplus produce grown at local school gardens to the Lunchbox to give away to community members. Accompanying the vegetables are recipe cards with ideas on how to prepare the vegetables that are available. While dates for additional free veggie give-aways are dependant on the availability of produce harvested from school gardens, GMFTS does plan of hosting more of these events this summer.
“Our hope is that these free summer meals coupled with our other programs, can help to move our community towards a healthier future,” says Cusack, “one in which our state’s farms are thriving and local residents have access to healthy, local food.”
To learn more about the Lunchbox, visit www.gmfts.org/programs/the-lunchbox/