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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

Summer nutrition road trip

Tribune staff


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Carol Monroe sees many of the same faces every week.

A worker in the Hernando County School District’s Food and Nutrition Services, Monroe serves up to 150 free lunches a day through the Cruisin’ Cafe.

A multi-colored converted school bus, the cafe travels to Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill and the Elks Lodge on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Brooksville, Monday through Friday.

On Thursday, free lunches included a hot chicken sandwich, apple sauce, baked potato chips, juice and milk. By about 11:30 that morning, Monroe and driver Ben Cotilletta had distributed more than 50 meals.

“I’ve been seeing mostly the same people,” Monroe said. “At the park, sometimes new families will see other people going on the bus, so they come over to see what it’s about.”

The bus is at Delta Woods Park from 11 a.m. to 11:45. It is at the Elks Lodge from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Described by the school district as a “diner on wheels,” the bus is air-conditioned and features bench seats and a small counter for those who wish to eat inside.

Through the program — which started June 9 and ends Aug. 8 — children and teens age 18 and younger can have a free, well-balanced lunch. No identification is required.

“Every day it’s a different hot meal,” said Monroe, who works at West Hernando Middle School during the school year.

Depending on the day, meals typically include either a hamburger, “rib-a-que” on a bun, stuffed cheese sticks, corn dogs or chicken sandwiches, along with either fruit, applesauce or carrot sticks, juice and milk, and cookies or baked chips.

Food and Nutrition Services receives no local tax dollars and is supported by students and parents, and through state and federal reimbursements.

During the school year, Food and Nutrition Services serves more than 2.5 million lunches and 1 million breakfasts to students, along with 150,000 snacks in after-school programs.

Nearly 41,000 lunches are expected to be served this summer, according to information on the program’s page at hernandoschools .org.

Besides the Cruisin’ Cafe, Food and Nutrition Services workers prepare and serve breakfast and lunch throughout the summer at Eastside Elementary and Westside Elementary schools.

“We stay very busy,” said Food Services Director Lori Drenth. “We also (offer services) to other summer programs that are up and running, like churches with Vacation Bible School, where they feed them for the week, or the sheriff’s camp.

“We just figure out where the most need is.”

(352) 544-5283

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