School Buses Bearing Sack Lunches Are Saving Rural Tennessee

More than 25 percent of children in the United States count on the government to feed them. Despite the Department of Agriculture spending $400 million on summer food programs, they reach less than 15 percent of eligible children.

In search for a solution, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northern Tennessee in Greenville, Tennessee, began a food delivery program. They went for a novel approach. Armed with four old school buses, the “Lunch Express,” as it is called, delivers 750-calorie sack lunches to children scattered across the Tennessee countryside. It’s not without its restrictions: no seconds, no adults, and no meals taken home, to list a few. Yet through these deliveries, the food bank is helping the people it serves survive the summer.

These “bread trucks” could illustrate the next step in fighting childhood hunger. Strides have already been made in this area: Some elementary school cafeterias stay open during year-round to provide lunch, while some high school summer programs begin earlier as an excuse to serve breakfast. Unfortunately, these strides cannot help the students that rely on buses to reach their school during the school year. The food delivery program shows a simple, effective way to make food accessible to these students.

Now rural Tennessee might not sound like a place where this is needed, but 750-calories goes a long way. For some it represents their first and last meal of the day. And the ones who do eat more rarely get a healthy choice of food or variety with their meal, causing a slew of health problems. These food buses and their drivers, then, represent a small glimmer of hope in one of America’s poorest areas.

One of the four bus drivers, Rick Bible, found his hometown to be just as needy an area as other, less prosperous countries:

Bible had lived in Greene County his entire life, but the trailer parks on his route reminded him of Belize, where he had traveled on a mission trip a decade earlier. He had spent a week there building a basic shelter for a homeless man while 70 other homeless people watched, wondering if Bible might build them houses, too. What he had experienced then was the same combination of fatigue and helplessness he felt now, looking inside the Laughrens’ dilapidated trailer. In this part of the country, in this time, no amount of sack lunches would ever be enough.

The greater question for the program is how it can manage to address the heart of the problem: sexual health care. When families in the area can’t get the birth control and educational material they need, the problem of over-population and hungry children persists.

Ultimately it reminds us that America, the world’s largest consumer, can still have food problems in its own back yard. And it highlights the need for Good Samaritans and novel approaches to solve a problem that every country faces.


”In rural Tennessee, a new way to help hungry children: A bus turned bread truck,” Eli Saslow, The Washington Post

Todd Faulkenberry

An avid supporter of Arsenal FC and a recent graduate of Amherst College, Todd Faulkenberry is now a statistic of America’s unemployment rate. When he isn’t curled up in his bed watching a new television drama, you can find Todd feigning productivity at the Barnes & Noble in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

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