LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, Ind. - Some kids count down the days until summer break. But, others who rely on free or reduced lunch during the school year struggle to find reliable sources of food throughout the long vacation.
A few school districts around central Indiana are expanding efforts to get free, hot meals to students in need.
The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township is taking food straight to families' neighborhoods.
The Bus Stop Cafe, a re-purposed school bus, heads to public sites like the Fort Harrison YMCA every week day and district vans go into nine residential areas.
"We’ve taken our show on the road," said Stephanie Tragesser, Director of Food and Nutrition Services.
Tragesser said staff noticed some students faced transportation issues and could not make it to schools for summer servings, the free summer lunch program. So, they wanted to make healthy meals more accessible.
"Lawrence is not a good walking district," Tragesser said. "We are trying to get out in our community and find a way to reach our children."
This year, the district added three additional residential areas for the free lunch program.
Parents at places like the Pan American Mobile Home Park said the impact of the program is clear.
"As a mother of four, free lunch helps on income," said Sheree Cedillos. "Sometimes, low income families may not have enough groceries for the week. So, this really helps a lot."
A high percentage of students at MSD of Lawrence Township qualify for free or reduced lunch, so the district qualifies for the free summer lunch initiative.
District enrollment is not required. Anyone 18 and under gets a free meal.
"We’ve got neighborhoods where we’re serving up to 100 kids in one apartment complex," Tragesser said. "No one feels they’re being singled out for what their parents may make because everyone is welcome."
The program runs through July 21.