As drivers whizzed down North Sandario Road in Marana on Monday, a woman wearing a bee costume waved and pointed to a large bus parked on the street corner at West Anthony Drive.
Marana Cares Mobile, a former school bus, has been renovated to include diner-style seating, food-storage devices and a health clinic area toward the back.
The vehicle is one way the Marana Unified School District tries to provide nutritious meals to kids in the community during school breaks.
While school is in session, kids are provided with breakfast, lunch and snacks, said Doug Wilson, the district’s superintendent. But when they are on break, parents may face difficulties affording food. The district wants to make sure every kid is well fed and prepared for when they come back to class.
“We want to be good partners with the parents,” he said.
Any child, up to age 18, can eat for free. Parents who bring their kids can also eat for $1.
The bus and its operations are funded by a combination of corporate partnerships and charitable donations, Wilson said. By spring break, the district hopes to offer a health clinic in partnership with the Marana Health Center.
Eventually, Marana schools want to introduce a second bus to provide food and dental care, he said.
“We’re in the business of changing the world,” he said.
It was early yet when a few small children were eating chicken sandwiches and nuggets with green beans, apples and milk.
On Monday, 126 meals were stored in the Marana Cares Mobile, ready to serve, according to Kari Barney, a site supervisor for food services at Rattlesnake Elementary School. These meals are prepared in the Marana schools’ cafeterias and brought on board.
“I was just really excited to do this for the kids,” she said. District employees are not obligated to work at Marana Cares Mobile events, but many help out, she added.
Jill Goff, a Marana resident, brought her two grandchildren along for chicken nuggets.
She said her family is struggling and appreciated the district’s help.
“It was nice to have a free meal,” she said.