Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lunch Bus hits the road with free food for Pasco school children

HOLIDAY — About 34 children gathered on the sidewalk at the Weston Oaks Apartments on Wednesday, some of them smiling, clapping and even jumping in anticipation.

And when the Gulfside Elementary School Lunch Bus arrived, they lined up to claim a seat at a special mobile cafe, where the service is friendly and the food free.

"Yay!" hollered Ramon Castillo, 11, claiming a box containing a turkey bologna and cheese sandwich, milk, juice and graham crackers. "I've been waiting here a whole hour!"

More than 600 of these meals were served last year on the Gulfside Lunch Bus, which offers free food to any child 18 and under with no preregistration or paperwork required. The food is served by Pasco Schools Food and Nutrition Service professionals on a modified district school bus that comes complete with cafe-style tables.

"With 85 percent of our students qualified for free and reduced lunches, we want to make sure that these kids get fed when they're not in school," said Chris Clayton, principal of Gulfside Elementary School. "Every little bit helps."

Originally intended as a convenient extension of the Gulfside summer feeding program, in which kids eat complimentary lunches and breakfasts in the school cafeteria, the lunch bus program boasts several new components this year.

When kids approach the bus, they will see a new wrap around the vehicle sporting an illustration of a school lunch as well as the name and website of the Summer Food Florida program. Administered by federal and state departments of agriculture, the program offers reimbursement to community sites where needy children can get the free food.

Two additional lunch buses will be riding the streets of Pasco this summer, originating from Hudson Elementary and Pasco Elementary in Dade City.

"We want to feed as many kids as we can," said Cindy Norvell, food and nutrition services specialist with Pasco schools.

Norvell credits Clayton with consistently coming up with new and inventive ideas in the service of his students. This year students will be able to select one free book from a library cart located at the front of the bus

"So this year the bus is not only a mobile cafe, but a mobile library as well," Clayton said, "and the kids get to keep the books."

Books for all ages were donated for this effort, courtesy of Generations Church and learning institutions such as Shady Hills, Oakstead and Denham Oaks elementary schools and St. Petersburg College.

"I got free books!" exclaimed Weston Oaks Apartments resident Anecia Graham, 10, who came off the Lunch Bus bearing new books for her and her brother, Trevion Graham.

According to their mother, Amanda Rothberg, her family gets a lot more from the Gulfside Lunch Bus program.

"I have a lot to deal with right now financially, and this program will help to relieve daily stresses," said Rothberg. "It will help us with food."

In the eyes of the Pasco schools professionals who are operating the bus this year, the program's benefits are not limited to student participants.

"I can't wait to see the kids this year," said Susan Brening, a food service employee who rides on the Gulfside bus to serve lunches. "I have my own kids at home, but these kids are special, too."

And Lunch Bus driver Patsy Highers, a longtime employee of the Pasco school system, specifically requested her assignment on the Gulfside bus this year.

"Any way that we can give food to kids," she said, "that's a good thing."

. If you go

Lunch Bus

The summer Lunch Bus will serve meals from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 2. For information about specific stops, call (727) 774-6000. For information about free breakfast and lunch programs at other Pasco schools, go to

Lunch Bus hits the road with free food for Pasco school children 06/15/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 14, 2013 5:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Busy start has Florida Hospital Center Ice dreaming big


    WESLEY CHAPEL — Opening day brought 600 doctors, administrators and their families from Florida Hospital. Soon after that, the facility hosted its first junior league game and a collegiate showdown. A few weeks later, 200 kids, ages 4 to 9, participated in national Learn to Play Hockey Day.

    Alex Senushkin and his grandson, Styopa Kulshyn, 3, of Lakeland, skate at the Florida Hospital Center Ice rink in Wesley Chapel.
[CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]

  2. Charlie Crist calls for national day of civility


    WASHINGTON – A week after a gunman opened fire on a group of Republicans, Rep. Charlie Crist this morning called for the establishment of a national day of civility, saying “the need for action could not be more urgent.”

    A note from Rep. Charlie Crist
  3. NBA draft: Jonathan Isaac could make FSU history tonight


    Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac will probably hear his name called early in tonight's NBA draft.

  4. Qatar Airways seeks to buy a stake in American Airlines


    NEW YORK — State-owned Qatar Airways is attempting to buy a 10 percent stake in American Airlines, triggering U.S. antitrust oversight of deals that size.

    In this file photo, a new Qatar Airways Airbus A350 approaches the gate at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Qatar Airways is attempting to buy a 10 percent stake in American Airlines, triggering U.S. antitrust oversight over deals of such size. 
[AP file photo]
  5. In Iowa, the president channels his inner candidate Trump (w/video)


    CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Struggling to advance his agenda in Washington, President Donald Trump traveled to the Midwest for a raucous rally with his loyal supporters — the kind of event he relished before winning the White House.

    President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. This is Trump's first visit to Iowa since the election. [Associated Press]