The two buses are the Lebanon Special School District’s mobile cafes for its summer food program, which began Monday. The decommissioned buses were refurbished and fitted with a serving area and six tables with the ability to seat 24 people.
The whole project began several years ago with the LSSD weekend backpack program.
“Ten years ago, teachers, administrators and community members were insistent that some children might need extra food for the weekend, and the LSSD weekend backpack [program] began with 70 children served the first year,” said Director of Schools Scott Benson.
Three years ago, child nutrition supervisor Angie Ballard and several of her cafeteria crew were awarded federal funds and headed out in a large school van, now called “the Little Neon” to provide hot meals to anyone 18 and younger at several sites, including Don Fox Community Park. The group served more than 3,000 lunches out of the van.
Once the idea of a mobile eatery for students caught hold, the program started to grow exponentially. With the addition of the Neon bus last summer, the group was able to serve 7,350 lunches. Currently, with the Neon Remix, they’ve set a goal of 10,000 lunches for the summer.
“Every year that we’ve done it since the child nutrition program took over, it has doubled,” said Beth Petty, family resources coordinator. “So we’re hoping to serve more than 10,000 lunches this summer.”
The Neon Remix allows the group to cover more locations during the summer. The Remix will be featured at Inman Court, Upton Heights and Don Fox Community Park throughout the summer.
The Neon Remix also features a library, so students at Upton Heights, Inman Court and Don Fox Community Park can check out the books if they like.
The theme of the Neon bus was that of a 1950s or 1960s diner. Petty said the theme of the Neon Remix is a little broader.
“It is just a straight up party bus,” said Petty. “Just what kids think of as a party bus. If you go out and see it, we have not decorated inside, but it has a lot of neon green. It’s very electric looking. The tabletops in it are a neon green and so are the cabinets, and eventually the decoration in there will be just lighting like a party bus.”
The buses won’t sit idle during the school year, either. When classes begin, the buses are turned into mobile classrooms that allow teachers to get their students outside the school and learn in a different environment. The Remix will also have a teacher library in it, so teachers can teach a full lesson with books featured on the bus.
The summer food program will be at Coles Ferry Elementary School’s cafeteria from 7:45-8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. until noon until June 29.
The program will also be at the Tater Peeler Road site from 11:45 a.m. until noon; Inman Court from 10:45-11:10 a.m.; Weatherly Estates from 11:45 a.m. until 12:15 p.m.; Peyton Road Apartments from 10:45-11a.m.; Kent Drive and Hobbs Avenue from 12:15-12:25 p.m.; Upton Heights from 11:20 a.m. until noon; Springhill Townhomes from 11:15-11:30 a.m.; Greentree Apartments from 12:50-1:10 p.m.; and Don Fox Community Park from 12:15-1:30 p.m. until July 20.
Outside of its regularly scheduled appearances, the program will also be featured at the Lebanon Police Department’s Youth Police Academy, Camp Victory, the Salvation Army Summer Camp, the Wilson County Help Center’s Summer Arts Academy, the Wilson County Help Center’s STEM Camp, Cumberland University’s youth basketball and softball camps and Walter J. Baird Middle School’s football camp.