Billings Public Schools launches food trailer
Summer meals offered in Billings through the Summer Food Service Program will increase availability even more in July.
For the first time, a new mobile food trailer will be offered in Billings. The trailer will create an additional four summer meal sites in Billings. Billings Public Schools purchased the food trailer, with a grant from Montana No Kid Hungry, to reach the neighborhoods in Billings with pockets of poverty.
"Our goal is to increase the number of summer meals served by at least 20 percent," said Sid Taylor, Director of Sodexo School Food Services. "We're working hard to make the summer meal program fun and inviting, while making it much easier for kids and teens to access food."
The summer meal program began again in June at several meal sites in Billings. With the addition of the mobile sites, a total of 15 locations are currently open in the city, with each one offering free meals to children aged 18 and younger.
These sites are run by Billings Public Schools under the Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded program operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Meals are provided to kids for free and USDA reimburses the school district for each meal served.
The No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices reports that in Montana only 17 percent of children who receive a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year participate in free summer meal programs.
In an effort to increase participation at the summer meal sites in Billings, Montana No Kid Hungry has sponsored an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team. The team of nine young adults is implementing fun learning and recreational activities at six summer meal sites, recruiting volunteers to run activities, and conducting outreach. By offering activities at these meal sites, will entice more kids to participate in the program. The NCCC team is also providing child and teen aged financial education classes and coordinating daily food drives at grocery stores, such as Albertsons and Lucky’s Market, to support Family Service, Inc., a local Billings nonprofit.
“Summer can create challenges for some families when it comes to food access,” Taylor said. “School meals provide students from low income families a safety net. When school is out, that guaranteed meal goes away.”
The Summer Food Service Program aims to fill that gap by offering free meals to any child with no sign-up required. There are currently 196 sites across Montana.