Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Traveling Lunch Bus helps feed Pasco students in the summer

HUDSON — Brandon Golden, 3, has one destination in mind for summer fun.

"He always asks me if we're going on the Lunch Bus," mom Jessica Golden said.

The Lunch Bus program has expanded greatly since its inception three years ago, when Gulfside Elementary School principal Chris Clayton conceptualized a summer food program.

"I knew I had a hunger problem in my community since at that time we had nearly 85 percent of our kids on free lunch during the school year," Clayton said. "I had been asking the district if I could become a summer feeding site, and the request was approved."

Soon Clayton realized that more help was needed.

"I noticed that too few kids were coming in for the meals . . . so my (Parent Teacher Organization) mothers and I decided to pack up coolers, load up our cars and take the food to the kids. . . . We served more than 500 lunches that first summer," he said.

Clayton shared the story with Pasco County School District officials, who responded by providing a refurbished school bus with the seats removed, replaced by dining booths.

"The summer Lunch Bus was born," he said.

This year, the district, teamed with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Summer BreakSpot program, is sending five lunch buses to more than a dozen sites throughout the county. Buses are running between Hudson, Gulfside, Pasco and Lacoochee elementary schools and Gulf Middle School. Meals are served by Pasco Schools Food and Nutrition Service professionals to children 18 and younger. No preregistration is required.

"In order to reach the many hungry children in our community, we realized that we needed to expand our units," said Cindy Norvell, a district nutrition specialist. "The demand for turning retired school buses into lunchrooms on wheels has greatly benefited our community. This program allows us to fill the gap to children that would otherwise not have access to a healthy meal over the summer."

Nutrition assistant Patti Burke serves 50 to 70 meals on the Hudson Elementary bus, along with smiles and warm greetings.

"I love this job," she said. "I hear so many (people say) 'God bless you' every day."

"The kids stand in line waiting each day for the bus," bus driver Karen Huntoon said.

The menu is balanced with proteins, fruits and vegetables, Burke said. Choices include turkey, bologna and cheese subs, yogurt dipper boxes, raisins, carrots, pears, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apple slices, juice, and milk.

"You don't just get free food here," said Kadin Little, 10. "You get good food."

"And sometimes pizza," said Dulce Saucedo, 10.

Dulce Calixto, Dulce Saucedo's mother, also brings April Chavez, 1, on the bus.

"The lunch bus is great," Calixto said, feeding carrots to a smiling April. "The kids sit at the tables and see the outside, and they get to see each other during the summer."

Virginia Dorman, Pasco Elementary Summer Feeding Program supervisor and Stewart Middle School nutrition program manager, agrees about the need for summer food programs. Many schools offer free summer on-site breakfasts and lunches. Blue Bag and Pac-a-Sac 4 Kids programs provide food-filled backpacks on weekends and school breaks. The programs are supported by many community groups.

"We have a huge population in Pasco living under the poverty level," Dorman said. "The meal that we give them might be their only meal of the day."

>>fast facts

Pasco's Mobile Units and Stops

For more information about the Summer BreakSpot program, visit

Gulf Middle, New Port Richey. Leaves at 11 a.m. with stops at 6646 Potter Lane, 6951 Menifee Court and 8540 Robilina Road.

Gulfside Elementary, Holiday. Leaves at 11:15 a.m. with stops at 1251 Westin Oaks Drive, Holiday.

Hudson Elementary, Hudson. Leaves at 10:45 a.m. with stops at 16217 U.S. 19 and 9519 Northwood Lane, Hudson. (More stops are planned this summer; call the school for details.)

Lacoochee Elementary, Dade City. Leaves at 10:45 with stops at 20637 Evergreen Court and Patti Lane, Dade City.

Pasco Elementary, Dade City. Leaves at 11 a.m. with stops at 12861 Stately Oak St., 37455 Acorn Loop and 15246 Davis Loop.

Traveling Lunch Bus helps feed Pasco students in the summer 07/09/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa man driving ATV killed in Gibsonton crash on U.S. 41

    Public Safety

    GIBSONTON — A 24-year-old man driving an all-terrain vehicle died Monday afternoon in a crash on U.S. 41, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  2. Questions about Russia chase Trump during first Israel visit


    JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump solemnly placed a note in the ancient stones of Jerusalem's Western Wall on Monday, sending a signal of solidarity to an ally he's pushing to work harder toward peace with the Palestinians. But his historic gesture- and his enthusiastic embrace of Israel's leader - were shadowed …

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after making joint statements, Monday in Jerusalem. [AP photo]
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders


    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?


    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late


    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.