Making Sure Lodi Kids Don't Go Hungry

BBQ Chicken wrap, picky eater and mom approved!

BBQ Chicken wrap, picky eater and mom approved!

I don’t know about any of you private school kids, but for those of us who went to public school, the subject of school lunch triggers some pretty specific, mostly comically bad, memories. That’s why when I recently found out about all of the changes that have gone on with the school lunch program I was absolutely shocked. The food and lunch program they have now looks almost nothing like the lunch program they had about 20 years ago. First off, the food is legitimately good. It’s healthy, fresh, flavorful and a far cry from some memories I have of elementary school lunches with their canned vegetables. School lunches have come a loooong way and I don’t just mean in the quality. Recently my mom, Susan Henderson, started working for Lodi Unified School District (LUSD) Food Services and I’ve been shocked to learn all the great things our school district does for our kids in our community. I’m not just saying that because my mom works there. The stuff they’re doing is really amazing. The lunch program has transformed into a lot more than just making breakfast and lunch. This story is to focus on one of the coolest, good news LUSD lunch programs: making sure kids in Lodi don’t go hungry during the summer break.

My mom, Susan, showing off the inside of their new food truck

My mom, Susan, showing off the inside of their new food truck

The program’s conception has pretty simple origins: the school district identified a problem, then decided to fix it. “We have a lot of kids in our district who are in need of meals. They don’t have access to food and we want to be sure they are all being fed.” explained my mom. There’s a large portion of kids in Lodi who depend on free or reduced school meals during the school year. Healthy meals fuel kids to grow; plus eating breakfast and lunch has been proven to help kids perform and behave better in school. Kids, like adults, make better decisions when they’re not hangry (hangry is that specific impulsive crankiness from being hungry).  But when school is out during summer break, a lot of these kids who depend on school lunches are left hungry.. In the last 10 plus years, students in LUSD have been able to seamlessly move into summer with the “seamless summer option”, AKA the summer lunch program, so that these same kids are taken care of. In 2017 alone, LUSD served 36,000 lunches. That’s a lot of lunches! That’s a lot of kids who would have otherwise not had food in their bellies! I visited LUSD’s summer lunch kickoff event where I got to chat with my mom and her coworkers about the program. One of the things that really stands out, is the staff is passionate about kids. They have a busy job and I don’t think they would be able to accomplish as much as they do if they didn’t believe in their mission and care about the well-being of all the kids they’re serving. At that event I got to try some of their food and check out their new mobile food truck. Recently the school district was awarded a grant that helped them purchase this cool, new mobile kitchen that makes them look like a trendy food truck. Besides looking cool, they’ll be able to take this truck out to locations to market their program and reach more people.

LUSD's fancy, new mobile food truck

LUSD's fancy, new mobile food truck

One of the things my mom, Susan, really wanted to emphasize was the importance of feeding kids during the summer. School lunches have become so much more than school lunches. A lot of the time we take for granted the fact that we won’t have to worry about where our next meal comes from, but not everyone is that fortunate. Not knowing if you’re going to be able to eat can cause a lot of stress to the body, especially for someone who is young and still developing. Plus when you’re worried about being able to eat, making sure your food is nutritious and balanced quickly becomes a lower priority. So to have the reliability of at least one healthy, solid meal can make a big difference in a child’s life. “It develops their brains and bodies and keeps them healthy. It allows them to learn, it allows them to grow. Their bodies and brains are still developing and need to be supported. At school we really push it because it makes such a big difference in reducing behavioral problems. It helps them think straight.  It also teaches them a lot about food and what’s healthy, so it gives them the information they need to grow up and make their own decisions about food.” explained my mom. The decisions kids make about food today, and their ability to access it now, has an impact on them the rest of their life. Being well nourished not only helps kids perform tasks better, it helps reduce behavioral problems which, as a community, we can all appreciate.

Vegetarian lunch option

Vegetarian lunch option

And guys, if you were wondering if they still have everyone’s favorite, pizza, they do. Susan begrudgingly admits it’s probably their most popular lunch item. Although she was quick to add, “It’s a healthier pizza. It’s lower in sodium, reduced fat cheese, and has a whole grain crust.” One of their other really popular items? Cinnamon rolls. “We make scratch cinnamon rolls. They’re a whole grain roll and amazing. We roll the whole thing out, we cut up, just the same way I do for you guys at Christmas time.The kids love it, and it makes everything smell wonderful. They absolutely love it.” Side note, yes one of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions includes my mom making homemade cinnamon rolls. And that’s probably why we’re both partial to this popular recipe.

BBQ Chicken wrap lunch that even my very picky toddler loved

BBQ Chicken wrap lunch that even my very picky toddler loved

Making sure kids in Lodi aren’t going hungry is important. I’m grateful to see how many groups, including our schools, are invested in taking care of our kids. If you’re wondering how you can support this program, the best thing you can do is share the news. LUSD has five Lodi locations. “It’s free. People don’t have to sign up for it, they don’t have to show any identification, they don’t have to have a proof of age. For anyone 18 years and younger it’s free.” So even kids who aren’t yet in kindergarten can receive a free meal during the summer. For my last question, I asked my mom, Susan, if she could change one thing in the world what would it be. I’m not sure if her answer was more influenced by our conversation or by her own granddaughter who was snacking away on her lap, but her answer was, “I would make sure that all of our children are healthy, happy and safe.” I couldn’t agree more.

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Lunches are served in Lodi at...

Community Medical Center @ Lawrence Elementary

June 4th through June 29th

11:15AM to 12:00PM

721 Calaveras Street, Lodi

Heritage Elementary

June 4th through July 15th

Breakfast: 8:00 to 8:30AM

Lunch: 12:00 to 12:30PM

509 East Eden Street, Lodi

Care Lodi @ Hale Park

June 4th through July 27th

Lunch 11:30AM to 12:00PM

165 N. Stockton Street, Lodi

Tokay High School

June 11th through July 13th

Breakfast: 7:00 to 7:30AM

Lunch: 10:00 to 11:00AM

1111 Century Blvd, Lodi

World of Wonders (WOW) Science Museum

June 11th through July 20th

11:30AM to 12:00PM

2 N. Sacramento Street, Lodi