More than 17,000 meals were served to the children in the community this summer, according to Tullahoma City Schools Nutrition Department officials.
Angela Cardwell, the director of nutrition for TCS, said the school’s food truck contributed to the largest number of meals served in the history of the school’s summer feeding program – a whopping 17,366 meals – a 9.5% year-over-year increase from last summer.
Additional stops along the Starvation Salvation Station (S3) route also contributed to the increase.
Cardwell said this summer’s route included more vacation bible schools and summer camps around the area, including the Tullahoma High School Band camp in July.
In total, the summer feeding program has served more than 50,000 meals since its inception in the summer of 2016 and has grown substantially each year.
The original program served 7,307 meals between the Kool Kids program, various “school camps” and the primary station at East Lincoln Elementary School.
The following year, the program expanded to include service to a Girl Scout summer camp and the Lannom Library lunch hour with “temperature controlled bags” out of a van. That summer, the program served 10,441 meals.
Last summer, with the pilot food truck program in full swing, the program increased service by more than 50%. Several of the city’s housing developments and apartment complexes were included on last summer’s route, bringing the summer total to 15,875.
That brings the grand total of meals served since 2016 to 50,989.
According to Cardwell, the feedback about the food truck – both its exterior and the meals offered inside it – has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Most of the feedback is about how they can see us coming because we are big and green” Cardwell said. Due to its size and color, the truck, she said, is “easy to spot in parking lots, and they feel safe when we pull up to their communities.”
“They are so grateful and love our options,” she added.
The truck has helped Cardwell and her team offer a diverse selection of foods, ranging from Greek grilled chicken gyros, grilled three-cheese sandwiches with bacon, Korean barbecue burritos and even the team’s own version of an Arby’s Beef ‘n Cheddar sandwich on a pretzel bun.
“Our truck this year has become a visual icon of this community,” Cardwell said. “Many of these families don’t have the means to provide a variety of foods from different cultures and also be nutritious and healthy. Unfortunately, eating healthy foods from grocery stores is very expensive.”
In addition to serving the summer feeding program, the S3 truck was also available as a special event catering vehicle.
Attendees to the annual Arts Alive festival might have seen it among the other food trucks there, ready to offer art enthusiasts a nutritious and delicious meal. For Cardwell, attending the festival was a great opportunity for “community outreach,” if it was not financial success. “It was the right thing for us to showcase who we are and what we look like and what our vision is,” she said.
The nutrition team was also able to cater the breakfast for the annual Tullahoma City Schools staff and faculty convocation late last month.
“We were a silent partner and provided breakfast for all 500 faculty members,” she said. “We were there to show the faculty we are here to support not only our students and children, but our fellow team members.”
The truck was proudly on display on the track to offer ice cold water to all TCS employees after they gathered on the football field to form the letter “T.”
“I like to think we - my staff and I - are the largest portion of the “serve” line on the faculty-wide T-shirts,” Cardwell said. “We are here to serve and love what we do.”
The partnerships didn’t stop there, Cardwell said.
S3 also fostered a partnership with Legacy Creamery this summer, she said. The gelato business donated little cups of the creamy treat for the truck to offer to children on Fridays during the summer.
Cardwell also counted the numerous truck stops this summer as lasting partnerships for the program.
“We have formed great partnerships with Lannom Library, First Baptist Church, Tullahoma Housing Authority, Kool Kids, Girl Scout Camp, THS Band Camp and the parents at the housing sites,” Cardwell said.
She added that the parents at each of the housing sites were “an extension of us.”
“Most of them are so helpful and kind and work with us to help all the kids in their ‘villages’,” she said. “It truly takes a village.”
For more information about the Tullahoma City Schools Nutrition Department, find the program on Facebook. The team regularly posts school breakfast and lunch menus, as well as photos of the meals offered in all seven Tullahoma schools.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.