When kids in the Roseburg School District see the Lunchbox Express roll into their area, it means food is on the way.

Hungry youngsters are able to pick up a nutritious hot or cold meal from the retrofitted mini school bus when it makes one of its stops in the Roseburg area.

The bus is running over the Christmas break to make sure the kids in the district have enough to eat. The bus made its run on Thursday and Friday and will be back on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday after New Years Day. The bus will serve up to about 309 kids each day it runs during the Christmas break.

Kyle Micken, director of nutrition services for the Roseburg School District, said the bus makes its first stop at the Saddle Butte Mobile Manor in Winchester, and then goes to Eastwood Park, Stewart Park and Green Elementary, spending 15 to 20 minutes at each location.

“We’re providing both hot and cold meals, so it could be anything like a pizza, sloppy Joes, or a turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” Micken said. “It’s just an outreach sponsored by Roseburg Public Schools.

The program runs through the summer, as well as Christmas and Spring breaks. It was started by former Superintendent Gerry Washburn three years ago.

“Even in the bad weather we still get kids, they’re still hungry, no matter what the weather is outside,” he said. “And this is one of the few districts in the state that runs a program like this. Roseburg has really looked out side the box and we continue to serve the kids even when we’re not in school.”

The bus has food warmers and coolers inside and has a sliding window where the kids can come up and ask for what they want.

For the many of the struggling parents, having the food service is a big help.

A foster mother, who declined to give her name, said the Lunchbox Express provides a great opportunity for her family.

“When you’ve got this many kids in the house, I can bring the four boys and let them all eat, I’m surprised that more people don’t take advantage of it,” she said.

Mary Drouin works at the Roseburg High School cafeteria and during the breaks she volunteers to serve the food on the bus trips.

“The kids love it, and we get excited too,” Drouin said. “They get so excited when they see the bus coming.”

Jolie Halliday also works in the kitchen at the high school, and she volunteered to drives the bus on the lunch routes.

“I thought it would be fun and I can stay a little busy during the break,” Halliday said. “It’s been like all the kids are coming at once so we’ve been making all the food together.”

The school district funds the Lunchbox Express and is available to any kid under 18.

Information is sent out to all the students to let them know that the meals will be available, and the information about the dates and times of the bus runs, is available on the school district web page at www.roseburg.k12.or.us/depts/nutrition/.

Reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday.com.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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