DADE CITY, Florida (WFLA) – A school bus arrives at a park off Lock Street in Dade City, Florida. Children climb on board, but they’re not headed to school.
They are picking up their lunch.
A state-funded program is providing lunch for children up to age 18 in Pasco County. The program started last year in Holiday. This year, there are three buses providing meals including the one in Dade City and one in Hudson.
Jessica Powell serves the meals to the children on the bus. She says she loves her job, especially when she sees the smiles in the faces of the children and their parents.
“They’re waiting for us,” Powell says. “They’re happy to see us when we do pull up and they know that they are going to get something to eat, something to drink.”
Inside the bus, benches line the walls so that the kids can eat in the air-conditioned mobile cafeteria.
The children are given a variety of items for lunch. The meal on Friday was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a bag of apples and a cheese stick, a smoothie and chocolate milk.
Jessica Manriquez, of Dade City, is a stay-at-home mom with two girls. They use the bus every day. Manriquez says it makes a big difference with the limited budget she has.
Manriquez says, “My husband is the only one that works so it’s very tight… money is very tight. So, it has helped tremendously. It saves on food so that we can have it for another meal.”
Manriquez also says that for many, this lunch bus is the only way the children can get a much-needed meal.
‘Most kids, they get left home all day. They can’t cook or their parents don’t have the money to feed them so this is a big help and a big blessing,” said Manriquez.
Pasco County residents can call 211 to find out which lunch bus is closest to their neighborhood.
The program runs through August 2nd.