When you think of a school bus, the first thing that pops into your head is most likely not very exciting. School buses are loud. They’re yellow. They’re boring. But this is no ordinary school bus.
Summer Skoolie, or “Skoolie” for short, is a vibrant, colorful mural on wheels that is anything but ordinary. During the school year, Skoolie, a school bus in its former life that was converted into a recreational vehicle, brings educational programs and activities to kids in underserved neighborhoods in South Washington County. These are kids who may not otherwise have access to the school district’s programming because of transportation or financial barriers. Yet during the summer, Skoolie becomes much more than a mobile classroom. From mid-June to the end of August, Skoolie also delivers nutritious meals with its programming.
These meals are vital for kids who rely on free or reduced meals during the school year, who may not be getting enough to eat when school is out. One in eight kids in Minnesota is considered food insecure. In the South Washington County School District, it’s one in five. Children who don’t get enough to eat will do worse in school and are less likely to graduate.
“We want to set our students up for success in every way that we can,” said Cheryl Jogger, South Washington School District Community Engagement Coordinator and SoWashCo CARES founder. “We are so excited to bring summer meals to kids in South Washington County through our mobile classroom.”
In addition to breakfast and lunch at two permanent locations, South Washington School District Nutrition Services also provides food through the Summer Food Service (SFSP) for Skoolie to deliver outside a local library and a church in the district, thus reaching even more kids.
SFSP is a USDA program that helps fill the missing meal gap during the summer months for kids who rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school year. Second Harvest Heartland supports SFSP by building community awareness to increase participation and by providing capacity building grants to local meal site sponsors.
“With the addition of two new mobile meal sites provided through Skoolie, we now have four SFSP sites where kids can get free meals this summer,” Jogger shares excitedly. “The food at our other Skoolie sites is being generously donated by community businesses and organizations, including many churches. It’s our community helping our community.”
Second Harvest Heartland, in partnership with South Washington County Schools, recently kicked off a collaborative new initiative—No Kid Hungry South Washington County—to ensure all kids get the meals they need to thrive. The initiative will serve as a model for other Minnesota school districts.