“Warrior Wheels” Van Delivers Food to Kids in Need Over the Summer

Alabaster City Schools expanded the Summer Feeding Program in 2016 with the “Warrior Wheels” Summer Feeding Project through grants provided by United Way of Central Alabama and the Community Foundation of Great Birmingham. Grants were awarded to help children living in food insecure households receive nutritious meals over the summer.

“We needed to make sure that our children in Alabaster had access to quality food over the summer months, so we started the summer feeding program,” said Wayne Vickers, Ph.D., the superintendent of Alabaster City Schools. “We were amazed at how much it’s grown. We’ve also had the opportunity to partner with Bold Goals and United Way to get a serving van, so we’re able to take Warrior Wheels out into the community and serve children.”

Alabaster City Schools was awarded $50,000 through a partnership between United Way and the Community Foundation focused on expanding the capacity, coordination and availability of federally reimbursable summer and afterschool food programs for children.

Over 249,000 children in Alabama live in food insecure households. About 28 percent of children in Shelby County are eligible for the free or reduced lunch programs at school, according to the Department of Agriculture. But these children might not have the same access to nutritious meals over the longer summer months, which is why the Alabaster City school system started a Summer Feeding Program.

“Across the U.S. there’s 28 million kids that have free or reduced meals during the school year, and only 15 percent of those kids have access to meals during the summer,” said Heather McDermott, the childhood nutrition director at Alabaster City Schools. “In Alabama specifically, there’s 480,000 kids that are on this program, and only 10 percent are able to get access to a meal, so there’s a big gap there that we’re trying to fill.”

Through the “Warrior Wheels” summer feeding program, Alabaster City Schools was able to expand from serving two sites to serving twn by delivering food to locations throughout the community. The new sites included several community churches and the Alabaster YMCA, as well a local fire station and park. The expanded feeding program served more than 1,000 meals each day, totaling more than 43,000 meals in 2016.

The Summer Feeding Program initially began in 2015 at Meadowview Elementary, where around half of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches during the school year. The program later expanded to Thompson Intermediate School.

“Our overall goal is to keep them excited about learning and physically motivated to learn by feeding them a healthy menu and watching them soar,” said Rachea Simms, the principal at Meadowview Elementary.

One of the new sites served by the food van was Missionary Baptist which, which helped about 15-20 children each day with the aid of churchgoers and other community volunteers, such as Racquelle Lane.

“It’s very important that we have this program to serve our community. Alabaster is a low-to-moderate [income] range community, so we have a lot of children who are in need,” said Lane. “During the school year they get a meal or two at school, but during the summer that’s harder, so we ensure that they get at least lunch. “

Another site which received food from Meadowview was the Alabaster City YMCA, which hosts a summer day camp.

“The summer feeding program allowed us to provide a hot lunch and a snack every single day to all of our summer day campers, which really took that worry away from parents,” said Rhoda Elmore, the executive director of the Alabaster YMCA. “Summers are already a busy time, and this was one less thing for they had to do while ensuring that all children had the opportunity for a healthy lunch. Every here in Shelby County we have a lot of food insecure students, so this summer feeding program allowed us to provide that to our summer day campers.”

The Warrior Wheels van will hit the road again in 2017 from June 5 to July 29.