“It’s a different kind of good,” Saulius Bachand remarked after finishing his free meal provided by the Lunchbox, a summer meal program and mobile learning kitchen. This food truck, which is a project of Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS), travels to various locations throughout the Northeast Kingdom offering free lunches to children under the age of 18 every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from Jun. 15 to Aug. 11.
Bachand, age six, ate every bite of his chicken salad sandwich, homemade potato chips, cheese stick, and apple while sitting on the public dock at the Pavilion Park in Island Pond on Friday. His sister Lilly, age nine, explained, “In the sandwich, the chicken was different. It had carrots and other vegetables, but it was better than the kind I usually have.”
Although the menu item changes every week, each meal takes a creative, healthy spin on traditional dishes that feature garden-fresh, local ingredients. Brenda Perron, one of the cooks for the Lunchbox, who is also a cook at Troy Elementary School, explains that children seem to be more willing to try new foods at the food truck than they are in a typical school cafeteria setting. “The food is weirder than they’re used to, but they’re very open to trying our lunches.”
In addition to meal service, the Lunchbox also offers educational presentations and taste tests. Alice Haskins, an intern with GMFTS, highlights a different in-season vegetable each week with samples, recipes, and activities which enable children to have increased exposure to the food grown in their communities. Melody Lynn, age seven, gave this week’s mixed greens a ‘thumbs-up’ despite her claim that the sample was tricky to eat and messy.
The Lunchbox has cheap, healthy meals for adults as well. “People with small mouths don’t stand a chance,” Justin Simino muffled while taking the first bite out of his adult-portioned chicken salad sandwich. He explained that the Lunchbox appealed to his love of local ingredients and eating outside with his dog. Holly Walsh, who was eating with her two daughters, said that the food truck was a convenient stop for her lunch break. Even though her daughter Isabel, age seven, did not like the sandwich, she said she would come back again and try something new another week.
The Lunchbox will be serving meals from 11:30am-1:30pm on Wednesdays at the Barton Library, Thursdays at the Gardner Park in Newport, and Fridays at the Pavilion Park in Island Pond. GMFTS is a non-profit organization in Newport, VT that strengthens local food systems by promoting positive economic and educational relationships between schools, farms, and communities. For more information, visit www.greenmountainfarmtoschool.org., call 802-334-2044, or stop by the office at 194 Main Street, Suite 301, Newport, VT.