Sometimes one creative idea can begin an impact that further exceeds one’s expectations. Noticing a need to ensure food was served to children while schools were closed, the Nutrition Services Department presented the idea of a Mobile Lunch Bus Program during the teacher walk-out which took place between April 26 – May 3, 2018. Thanks to this one creative idea led by Nutrition Services Supervisor Emma Kitzman, Tempe Elementary was able to provide more than 3,000 lunches through their Mobile Lunch Bus Program.
The Mobile Lunch Bus was a special program where TD3 school buses traveled to seven local Tempe neighborhoods plus five childcare facilities bringing nutritional lunches to children in need during the teacher walk-out. Locations were based on suggestions from the Transportation Department, which targeted areas of highest need. “Their input was significant in the planning and routing part and ultimately made the effort a success.” explained Kitzman. The entire planning and execution of the mobile lunch bus idea, including coordination and collaboration from multiple departments and sharing it with the public, came together in about four hours. “This experience really exemplified how different departments can work together to make a significant impact for our children,” said Kitzman. “It became a great team-building experience and change of pace from our normal routine.”
Traveling around Tempe, TD3 bus drivers and nutrition services workers greeted all children aged 18 or younger and offered company while they ate their lunch. Taking place within short notice, the Nutrition Services Department worked alongside the Transportation Department to coordinate the Mobile Lunch Bus program schedule and had it approved by administrators and the Department of Education. Tempe Elementary also offered free breakfast and lunch options at several school sites welcoming any child that came through their doors.
Motivated by hard-work and dedication to students, the Nutrition Services Department and Transportation Department were able to offer children in and outside of Tempe Elementary School District a very unique and important program to ensure their health and well-being. As the bus would pull into communities or parks, the kids would come running, excited to receive a meal. What was on the menu? They served a turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a “grab n’ go” (yogurt/cheese stick/whole grain granola bar), fresh fruit, fresh veggies, assorted whole grain crackers, and milk. Employees said it was overwhelming to see the enthusiasm and smiles on both the children and caregivers faces every stop, every day. The countless thank you’s and positive feedback was motivating and fulfilling all those involved.
Nutrition Trainer Jessica Braboy had only worked in TD3 for two weeks when the walk-out happened. She helped prepare the lunches and traveled on the school bus to all the locations to help serve the kids. “Once we finally got on the bus and starting delivering lunches, I can’t even express how fulfilling and rewarding the experience was,” described Braboy. “It makes me wonder what else we can do for our communities and our kids who need us. Doing things like this makes you want to do more and be a better person. I am happy and grateful to be part of such an amazing team, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.”
“This unprecedented ‘walk-out’ gave us the unique opportunity to service the community in a way that we have never been able to before,” said Kitzman. “The experience brought departments successfully together exemplifying the culture at Tempe Elementary. Within our own department it again further reminded us of our purpose and importance of food for basic survival. I was more than pleased with the success of the mobile bus and am so happy that we did it!”
Thank you to all who were a part of the Mobile Lunch Bus coordination and its success!