Food truck helps fill summer meal gap

06/20/2014 12:00 AM

06/19/2014 1:22 PM

A colorful food truck run by Inter-Faith Food Shuttle will make the rounds of local neighborhoods this summer offering children healthy and free dinners at a time when they may have less access to meals.

The goal is to help families whose children participate in free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs at school and are faced with skipping meals or stretching an already thin budget in the summer when school is out.

The “Mobile Tastiness Machine” will make weekly stops for dinner in four communities, including John Chavis Memorial Park in Southeast Raleigh on Mondays.

Terri Hutter, division chief of food service and culinary job training programs, said that each family’s situation varies, but the program helps fill an overall gap in children’s access to healthy, complete meals.

As the truck drove into neighborhoods last year, children would appear quickly to welcome the group.

“You would think we’re the ice cream guy,” she said. “They’re happy to see us.”

The program is expected to draw as many as 150 to 200 people on its biggest nights this summer, compared with about 125 to 150 people last year, she said.

Inter-Faith Food Shuttle runs a variety of programs to reduce hunger and bring healthy foods to communities. The group grows food and delivers meals, but also seeks to build community members’ skills in a way that translates into jobs and systemic change for an area.

Patrick Weldon is a former intern with Inter-Faith and now works with the group part-time in addition to his full-time job.

He loves working on the food truck, where the group can cook or keep prepared meals hot.

“I like seeing the kids smile when you give them something to eat,” he said.

Through the food truck program and other initiatives in Raleigh and Durham, Inter-Faith expects to deliver 11,500 meals to several hundred children this summer.

During the summer, some Inter-Faith food donations go down just as need goes up. Produce generally is in stock, but the group does need donations of money to purchase proteins including chicken, ground turkey and ground beef, as well as healthy foods and snacks such as granola bars, fruit cups, shelf-stable milk and canned veggies.

The Chavis Park food truck stop is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday nights in partnership with Southeast Raleigh Assembly’s “Dancing in the Park” group exercise event, which starts at 6 p.m.

The group also will deliver weekly to Horsehoe Park, Parrish Manor and Maple Ridge Apartments.

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