SPOKANE — An alliance of food trucks in Spokane is offering free meals this summer to homeless students who normally rely on free and reduced-price school lunches during the school year.
The pilot program gives free meals to 58 homeless students who use punch cards for food at the trucks during the 11-week summer break, The Spokesman-Review reported Saturday.
Students can get up to five hot meals a week — or 55 total — over the summer at any of more than 30 participating food trucks. Forty-five of the students also got bus passes to travel to the food trucks’ locations.
Food truck owners are donating the cost of a meal, typically priced at $10 or $11 and it’s estimated that the business will give away a combined $30,000 in food to needy teens this summer.
“This started right when they got out of school,” said Tony Epefanio, owner of Mixed Plate Food Truck & Catering and president of a food truck association. “How awesome would it be if we don’t hear about any kids going hungry this summer?”
Spokane Valley Partners and the Greater Spokane Food Truck Association Gives Back nonprofit worked with schools to launch an extension of Spokane Valley Partner’s school-year food program.
During the academic year, Spokane Valley Partners provides food that schools give to needy students to take home on weekends. The agency serves 22 schools and about 500 students during the school year, said Cal Coblentz, the agency’s CEO.
But that stops when school does.
“The schools came to us and said some of these students are starting to panic a little bit,” Coblentz said.
“For some of these students, it’s critical because we have identified over 50 teenagers who are legitimately homeless in the Valley with no family or who are separated from families, just out on their own on the streets or surfing couches.”
Epefanio, of the food truck association, said he hopes the program will be successful and can be expanded next year.
Teens appear to be regularly using their punch cards, and he plans to get an official count by the season’s end, he said.
A number of the vouchers have been turned in at the Spokane Valley Farmers Market, a festival and a mixed-use development that includes restaurants and shops.
“By coming to food trucks, they’re feeling like they are part of the community,” Epefanio said. “They can enjoy a meal and an outing.”
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com