By Raquel DeSouza
In Fredericksburg, kids are running out to a truck blaring music, but this is not the ice cream man. This is a food truck filled with hundreds of fresh and free meals for any school-aged child in the city.
Fredericksburg City Public Schools food services director Brian Kiernan started Mobile Cafe last year. To join the USDA-funded Summer Food Service Program, at least half of the area’s students need to qualify for free or reduced meals. Kiernan wanted to bring the food to multiple gathering areas in the community, not limit it to school grounds.
“When you’re in a community that has a high free- and reduced-rate [meal program], you know that the kids aren’t going to have transportation,” he says. “So to create a meal program that’s served out of your schools might be a good idea … in retrospect it’s not in our situation because how are the kids going to get to the school? They’re not.”
He drives the truck with Araceli Guzman, the James Monroe High School cafeteria manager, and Erika Camacho, the high school’s nutrition worker. They serve as many as 125 kids at one stop in just 30 minutes, with about 300 meals total through out the day.
“It’s no longer opening a can [to] put it in a cup and call it fresh fruit,” says Kiernan, who has worked in the food service industry for over 30 years. “That doesn’t happen anymore. I don’t even buy canned vegetables.”
Along with the fresh fruit and salads, choices include vegetarian options, yogurt and daily specials such as chicken teriyaki with rice, beef and cheese nachos, pizza with housemade marinara sauce and chicken smackers.
“Food has been on the national spotlight, [and] school nutrition has been on the national spotlight now for quite frankly 10 years,” Kiernan says. “It’s a reality that if you’re going to get federal money, then you should serve a quality product or at least you should buy quality items, raw resources.”
Next year the 22-foot-long food truck will be accompanied by a second vehicle, a converted bus. / Mobile Summer Food Service Program, June 22-Aug. 21, Mondays-Fridays: Arm of the Lord Ministries, 11-11:30 a.m.; Heritage Park, noon-12:30 p.m.; Hazel Hill, 1-1:30 p.m.; and Headquarters Library, 2-2:30 p.m. Or find free meals in your town.