SOUTHERN INDIANA — After one month of serving up meals to people throughout the area, summer food programs run by local school districts say numbers are up.
Greater Clark County Schools' Food Truck has been giving food to students at nine sites throughout the county since the program launched June 3. Free meals are available to children under 18 and adults who are determined by a state or local public education agency to be mentally or physically disabled, and who participate in a public or nonprofit private school program established for the mentally or physically disabled.
At New Albany Floyd County Consolidated Schools, officials partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture to provide meals at seven locations in New Albany. The program started June 10 and is set to run through July 19.
According to Susan Hayes, food truck manager with Aramark — which handles food operations for GCCS — the program has picked up steam in the years since she started her route.
"Things have been going a lot better," Hayes said. "This is the third year I've been doing it. The numbers are going up each year. We had close to about 200 a day at the beginning."
Hayes and GCCS cafeteria worker Sue Hagan cover three sites Monday through Thursday and an additional two sites on Fridays. Hot and cold options are served on alternating days throughout the week.
The pair's most popular site this summer has been the Clarksville Parks Department, which served its last meals of the season on July 3.
"Clarksville Parks and Recreation always had 80 to 100 that we fed there," Hayes said. "When that program's going on, that's definitely our biggest. We go to Bob Hedge Park after this stop, and that has picked up a lot since we first started at the beginning of the summer."
At noon Monday, the truck made a stop at Jeffersonville Township Public Library, where youth service manager Lori Morgan helps guide children to and from the library's activity room.
"Things have been going very well," Morgan said. "We have a lot of kids who are still reading over the summer months. They just drop in to play at the library."
On average, Morgan said the site feeds about 50 to 60 people, including parents accompanying their children. For those who have nowhere else to go during the summer months, the truck fills an important void.
"We have a lot of kids who are here all day," Morgan said. "They don't go home. This might be the only meal they get for the day. Mom and dad are working, and they start here at 9 in the morning and may be here when we close."
At the YMCA in New Albany, Abby Fink said they receive snacks for at least 120 children a day. She handed out food and drinks to about 90 people on Monday, which is a lower figure she expects to see for the remainder of the program.
"It's convenient for the camps that are here," Fink said. "The kids don't have to pack a snack. It's great. Even kids who are here with their families who are working out can still come and get a snack."