SAN JOSE – The Mountain View Whisman School District, in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank and the County of Santa Clara, had a successful summer driving to parks and schools to provide free hot meals to students and seniors in their new food truck.
“Food insecurity didn’t take a holiday just because it was summer vacation,” said Joe Simitian, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. “In fact, without a school lunch program readily available, summer would have been particularly challenging for some of our families.”
“Mountain View is a city with both significant affluence, but also pockets of need,” said Simitian, who proposed County funding for the food truck program last year. “Because of this economic diversity it’s often difficult for folks in need to access services, and for service providers to reach them. That’s what this new food truck can do — bring the food to the kids and families who need it most.”
The mobile food program is available to any child, which removes some of the stigma or fear around “signing up.” Adults can also pay for meals, and free meals are available for seniors at the Rengstorff Park site.
“Hey, if we want to help kids and their families, then we need to take our services out into the community,” Simitian said. “Parks, schools – these are community gathering places where we can help not just these kids, but their families as well.”
While five out of ten school sites in the Mountain View Whisman School District have over 40% of students eligible for free and reduced meals, students still struggle to access food outside of school hours, and school staff estimate that some families are reluctant to sign up for reduced-price meal programs. One of those locations was Theuerkauf Elementary School, where during summer school sessions students were fed meals.
Simitian also noted that “Senior meal programs typically have a decline in participation over the summer because grandparents are often home caring for their grandkids. That’s why I’m particularly pleased with the creative collaboration with the County’s senior nutrition program. It lets us do even more.”
“The surest way to make certain people in need get the food and services they need is to bring the food and services to them,” said Simitian. “This effort brings those essential programs to the folks who need them most, in places they can get to.”
In 2017 the district partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank to expand their normal summer school food program by piloting a summer food program at local parks and the local library.
With the support of the County and the addition of the new food truck, the District was able to serve 30,198 meals during the summer break and is hoping to serve an additional 450,000 meals during the school year.
Now that summer is over, the Mountain View Whisman School District is using the “Food for Thought Truck” to engage the community in activities such as nutrition classes, special school meals, and additional special events focusing on healthy meals.
“I’m sure most people don’t think of food trucks and County services as an obvious pair,” said Simitian. “But really, it makes all the sense in the world.”