When the big, green GLOW Bus pulls up, the lunchroom has arrived. Mark Somerville, staff pastor at the Family Worship Center in El Dorado, volunteers to drive the bus to five stops in El Dorado and Towanda for Kidz LunchBox in the summer.
Kidz LunchBox is a program run by Judith Storandt under the nonprofit organization Kids Need 2 Eat (KN2E), and it exists to give free summer meals to children in Butler County. Storandt is the administrator of Kidz LunchBox and president of KN2E.
"These kids' brains are developing at these ages, and we want to provide the nutrition for that growth so they can grow up to be the adults we need them to be someday," Storandt said.
There are no restrictions for what children can get a free meal; Kidz LunchBox is available every weekday to all kids 18 years old and younger for six weeks of the summer. The program even provides baby food and diapers for infants. Kidz LunchBox also has a book drive so kids can pick out a book once-a-week. The last day of Kidz LunchBox this summer is August 11.
The GLOW Bus, which was purchased in October 2016 by KN2E with grant funds, is a school bus that was gutted and converted into a cafeteria on wheels by inmates at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in spring 2017. They also retrofitted the bus with air conditioning units, an awning and a rear staircase; it provides a cool place for kids to eat their free lunches. This is the first summer the GLOW Bus is in operation, and it visits each of the five bus stops for about 45 minutes each weekday.
In addition to lunch, Kidz LunchBox sends children home with breakfasts and snacks during the week and backpacks with food for the weekends. The program is supplied by the Kansas Food Bank, and Storandt also uses grant money to purchase food for meals. Snacks are donated. Kidz LunchBox depends on help from volunteers, many of whom are from churches around the county. KN2E started in February 2013, and the first Kidz LunchBox program began that summer.
The schedule for GLOW Bus stops is as follows:
10-10:45 a.m. Silverwood Apartments (2317 Enterprise Ave. in El Dorado)
11-11:50 a.m. Family 1st Living (601 Mills Drive in Towanda)
noon-12:45 p.m. H2O Church (304 Main St. in Towanda)
1-1:50 p.m. Quail Ridge Apartments (1305 S. High St. in El Dorado)
2-2:45 p.m. Forest Park / swimming pool (900 N. Taylor St. in El Dorado)
In addition, there are two fixed meal sites:
11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Family Worship Center (701 S. Atchison St. in El Dorado)
noon-1 p.m. The Benton Church (has finished with Kidz LunchBox for this summer)