Elementary school principal helps put the brakes on summer hunger

600 kids taking advantage of mobile cafeteria

Hungry for change, a Pasco County school principal is taking to the streets, looking to feed every one of his students who's in need of a good meal this summer.

"Ninety percent of our boys and girls qualify for free lunch from the state," said Gulfside Elementary School Principal Chris Clayton.

It’s been three years since Clayton first envisioned a summer lunch program.

"We definitely know we have a hunger need in the community of Pasco County, but there weren’t any programs during the summer for many of these children feeling the pain of an empty stomach," Clayton said.

Originally the plan was to have parents and kids in need pick up food from local schools, but he quickly realized something was wrong.

"We noticed that kids weren’t coming into our school to get the free meals possibly due to transportation issues," Clayton said.

Realizing the limitations of many of these families, Clayton and his loyal volunteers decided it was time to bring the food to them.

And the lunch bus was born and to incredible success almost immediately

"We had over 500 kids that first summer," said Clayton

District officials got wind of the program and jumped on board also. Expanding it to six buses and a dozen locations.

"For much of the time in those two months, we were struggling with, OK, where's our next meal coming from?" said Darla Valdez, a mother of four.

In and out of shelters, sometimes even on the streets, Valdez struggled to find work and stability to support her four children, calling the apples, peanut butter sandwich and milk served aboard Friday's bus a god send.

"We need to do more programs like this to help more children, especially those kids who are struggling, and a lot of these parents who are struggling to make ends meet," Valdez said.

That’s exactly what the programs creator hopes for, as other counties are now sitting up and taking notice.

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