The Washington Court House City School District launched its “Big Blue Bus” on Tuesday—which travels to different locations in town to feed kids ages 18 and under at no cost.
The bus will serve meals every Monday-Friday from May 28 to Aug. 9 excluding the Fourth of July. It will be at Riverbirch Green at 10:45 a.m., Eyman Park at 11:30 a.m., Grace Community at 12:15 p.m. and Christman Park at 1 p.m. Kids can also go to the Washington High School cafeteria for a free breakfast starting at 8:30 a.m. and lunch at 11:30 a.m.
According to Trevor Patton, marketing and communications director for Washington Court House City Schools, the Blue Bus was made possible by several local organizations and businesses. USDA is running a summer food service program that reimburses for meals served—it also covers the funding for the food service workers.
Patton explained via email, “Converting the Big Blue Bus from a regular school bus to a fully functioning mobile kitchen was made possible from private donors, such as Sugar Creek. Because of the USDA and private partnerships, the Big Blue Bus is on the road at little expense to the local taxpayer.”
The meals are free and there is no sign-up required. They’ve had kids show up by walking, riding a bike and kids who were fishing or playing at the park who took a break to eat. Over 100 kids were served on Tuesday, and on Wednesday over 200 were served.
Patton said, “We have the capacity to serve over a thousand kids a day—that’s what we’re hoping to do.”
The Blue Bus doesn’t just serve food. There is also a free book store so children can pick out a book. Educational opportunities will be happening throughout the summer—Make it Monday, Tourney Tuesday, Workout Wednesday, Think it Thursday and Fayette Friday.
Sports teams will be taking part in “Workout Wednesdays” for fun, physical activity with the kids. Other local organizations and businesses have agreed to volunteer a few days this summer, including Fayette County Memorial Hospital and the Washington Police Department.
Patton said on Tuesday, “We pulled up to our first stop and as I was getting out of the car, there were a few elementary aged kids. Some were on their bikes, some of them were walking, but when they saw the bus they started running and were actually shouting, ‘It’s here, it’s here.’”
He explained, “It’s incredible through the generosity of our local donors, through the program, through the government, through the USDA and just through the workmanship of the folks who have put this thing together—I’m in awe.”
Part of the reason this project was undertaken is due to the local poverty and educational level. One in six children in Ohio are food insecure. According to Patton, there are over 2,000 students in WCHCS and of those students, over 60 percent receive free or reduced lunches and over 70 students are homeless.
Patton explained, at the beginning of the WCHCS 2017-2018 school year, over 50 percent of kindergarten students were not on track in literacy and language, and the current student body has more special needs students and more economically-disadvantaged students than all schools from several surrounding counties.
Out of 29 districts, WCHCS receives the least in revenue per pupil. In the state, WCHCS is in the bottom 10 percent of property value and therefore spends approximately $2,000 less per pupil than the average 273 comparison districts. Compared to other schools in the Frontier Athletic Conference, WCHCS earns less total revenue by millions of dollars.
The Big Blue Bus is an attempt to provide students with hot and healthy meals as well as educational enrichment.
Volunteers are needed for socializing with the kids and helping with educational opportunities, such as playing board games with them or helping them to choose a book. Those wishing to volunteer or contribute financially can contact Patton at 740-335-6620.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.