Sunday, April 22, 2018
Education

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."

Comments
A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

The young man in a white jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled, looked past the throng of reporters pointing microphones toward his face, barely opening his mouth as he answered questions."I shot through the door," he said, looking at a female repor...
Published: 04/21/18
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Every time I see an algebraic formula, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Landreth and Mrs. McBee flash through my mind.If you say history, I say Mr. Groot and Mrs. Melton. If you say civics, I say Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Hunt.I type using the "home keys" because Mrs....
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18