The Lunch Box Bus is rolling!

The Lunch Box Bus is rolling!

Monday, June 4, was a momentous day for hundreds of schoolchildren in Hancock and Hawkins counties, Tennessee – it was the first day of summer vacation that the Lunch Box bus came to their tiny communities bringing them a free, healthy and filling lunch.

Americans Helping Americans® is proud to be a national organization helping our partner there, Of One Accord, to make such a big difference for hungry children in the rural, northeast Appalachian region of the state.

Of One Accord Executive Director Rev. Sheldon Livesay noted at a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the 2018 kickoff of the Lunch Box bus program which is now in its 13th year that they are on track to serve the 100,000th meal this summer.

In a video prepared for the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, Rev. Livesay explained why the program is so necessary for the children they serve.

In large cities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program is able to serve hundreds of children living within a few blocks of a feeding site, such as a school, church or community center.

“That’s not the case here in rural Appalachia,” he said.

Since the children can’t get to the meals, the meals are brought to the children on four Lunch Box buses which will operate for more than 40 weekdays this summer.

The buses traverse the rural two-lane roadways through the mountains to remote mobile home parks, community centers and low-income communities where between 15 to 25 kids and youth hop on, enjoy lunch with their siblings, friends, and neighbors, and hop off full and ready for an afternoon of fun with no worries about when they’re going to get their next meal.

“It takes several different stops to begin capturing those numbers of children and making it possible for everybody who needs help to get help,” he said.

While Of One Accord is reimbursed for the cost of the food itself by the USDA, it is up to Rev. Livesay to come up with the roughly $30,000 cost to operate the program which includes, bus fuel and maintenance, insurance, driver’s salaries and other miscellaneous expenses.

And thanks to our supporters we are able to help with a substantial portion of those costs.

“Americans Helping Americans® is a national organization that is supporting us this year,” stated Rev. Livesay in the video kicking off the 2018 season. “They’re doing a fundraiser for us through the month, and we certainly want to thank you, Americans Helping Americans®.

“God bless each and everyone one of you.”

Lunch Box Program

Lunch Box Program

In the summer of 2017, hundreds of hungry children in rural Appalachian Tennessee waiting anxiously each weekday to hear their favorite sound. And no, it wasn’t the ring of the bell of an ice cream truck loaded with sweet treats for sale on a hot summer’s day.

In fact, the sound they were listening for was the sound of the big diesel engine of a school bus, not coming to take them to school, but instead bringing them a filling, nutritious meal, which sadly for many would be their only substantial meal of the day.

Our partner Of One Accord, serves lunch to hundreds of children living in impoverished Hawkins County, among the poorest in the state, and through its “Lunch Box” bus summer feeding program, a total of 12,464 meals were served in 2017.

The Lunch Box bus program is unique! A former “retired” school bus is converted into a mobile cafeteria where children get on the bus and eat their lunch with their siblings and friends, just as they do on a school day. The seats are turned facing each other with a cafeteria table in between allowing seating for 15 or more children to all eat at one time.

In 2006, Of One Accord was the first ministry in the U.S. to put the concept of bringing lunch to children in rural areas where offering a summer meals program at a centralized location is not practical or feasible, according to Executive Director Rev. Sheldon Livesay.

The four Lunch Box buses will serve an average of 320 children daily, with each bus making a total of 32 regular stops each day. This summer it is projected to serve 14,500 meals, from June 4 to July 27.

“The key for success is having to be consistent and to be at each location at exactly the same time each day for children to be able to depend on the bus coming,” he explained.

The need was great for such a program in the area. Hawkins County was among the last counties in the state that did not have a summer feeding program in place for school-age children, according to Rev. Livesay.

He told us that when the school system attempted to offer a summer lunch program, it didn’t work because the vast majority of children did not live within walking distance of the school; in the rural communities it was too far and too costly for parents to drive them to get a free lunch.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program funds the cost of the food, and we help to cover the cost of program expenses needed to run the operation. “Through the amazing help of Americans Helping Americans®, we were not only able to place two more buses on the road, but they are being sustained as a program through the support of Americans Helping Americans® raising the number of children served from 8,500 to 14,500,” Rev. Livesay said.

However, he added, “The sad note is we have children who board the bus who attest this is the first meal they have had since the day before, and we have even heard on a Monday, this was a child’s first meal since the Friday before.”

A ramp for the Johnson family

A ramp for the Johnson family

Bruce Johnson developed muscular dystrophy many years ago. Since then, he has lost his ability to walk and is bound to a wheelchair. Without the proper wheelchair ramp, his wife Karen, and their daughter, Susan, have a lot of difficulty getting him in and out of the house. Mr. Johnson not only struggles with his inability to walk but also the inability to provide for his family.
 
Since the Johnson family is on fixed incomes; they did not have enough resources to pay for the house repair themselves.
 
That is why we provided a grant to our Community partner in Tennessee to help provide materials needed for the project. Thanks to our supporters, partner, and volunteers, they now have a new roof, a wheelchair ramp, and a house that looks brand new because of the paint job. No longer is the house unsafe for Mr. Johnson.
Volunteers
 
Hope is restored in more ways than one. The Johnson’s bragged on all the workers who helped provide this for them. They said everyone was so kind and gentle with them, and it lifted their spirits. They especially loved having children and young adults around who made them feel special. Mrs. Johnson said, “This week has truly been a blessing to me and my family. The people out here working are kind and courteous. They never leave without coming in and telling me goodbye. I can’t believe they would come all the way from another state just to help me”.
 
Without your support which helped to provide materials needed for this project, this family’s life could not have been changed.