One day a few years back, Sheldon Livesay, founder and executive director of Americans Helping Americans® partner Of One Accord in Rogersville, Tennessee had a brilliant idea.
Livesay, a long-time partner of Americans Helping Americans®, was well aware that hundreds, if not thousands of children would go hungry again the next summer when school was out if he didn’t come up with an answer.
In Hancock and Hawkins counties served by Of One Accord in northeast Tennessee there is a very high percentage of school-age children who are on free and reduced lunch programs and can be assured of receiving a healthy, filling lunch on weekdays throughout the school year.
But what about in the summer?
While it’s relatively easy in metro and suburban areas to establish summer lunch programs at community centers children in the neighborhood can walk to, that’s not possible for children who live in rural areas where their only option would be to walk miles on two-lane dangerous highways.
To purchase a used school bus, but not to bring the children to lunch – but to bring lunch to the children.
So, after identifying the best bus he could acquire from a local school system at the best possible price he set about converting it into a sort of rolling cafeteria on wheels – seats were refitted to face each other with a table in the middle, and space was dedicated to carry the hundreds of meals that would be delivered each weekday.
Thus, Of One Accord’s “Lunch Box Bus” was born.
The program was so successful that not long after that he acquired a second bus and by 2014 two buses were each making 10 stops and each serving 200 children each day in the communities of Rogersville and Church Hill. In 2015, the numbers jumped to over18 stops with over 13,500 meals served.
In a typical week, the children will receive hot meals of what practically all children love for lunch – hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers – along with fruit and cold vegetables four days a week, and a cold meal, perhaps a bologna sandwich, once a week.
“In our area of Appalachia, we see a change where children are having to skip meals simply because the cost of living compared to incomes of families doesn’t allow parents to provide regular meals to their children,” says Sheldon.
“Unfortunately, we often hear, ‘This is the first meal I’ve had since yesterday.’”
Americans Helping Americans® funding helps the buses roll through the miles of Tennessee roads to reach hungry children.