While we’ve made progress in reaching low-income children with food during the summer months, getting kids to summer meals sites can be challenging. Parents have indicated an interest in mobile meals programs, and an increasing number of sponsors around the country operate successful programs. This section can help you determine if the mobile meals model is right for your community, as well as guide you in implementing a new mobile program or improving an existing one.

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Mobile Meals: The Basics
kids eating at tables that are placed in front of a mobile meals delivery truck

Whether it is because sites are too far away, transportation is unavailable or too costly for families, or parents just don’t know about summer nutrition programs, millions of low-income kids are missing out on meals every summer. Mobile meals are one solution to this challenge whereby sponsors use vehicles to transport and serve meals directly at apartment complexes, parks, and other locations where children spend their summer days. Mobile programs provide a 'hyper local' food delivery model that may be particularly important in rural or suburban communities where distance and a lack of public transportation options are major barriers to access. 

Research commissioned by No Kid Hungry found that 80 percent of children are at home during the summer months, and an equal number of parents are interested in mobile meals programs. What's more, one in three low-income parents expressed confidence that a mobile meals truck would make their child more likely to participate in the summer meals program. The USDA first provided guidance on operating 'mobile feeding sites' in February 1999. Since the initial memorandum, sponsors have implemented mobile programs in rural, urban, and suburban communities. Mobile meals programs can satisfy the congregate meal requirement while taking meal service into areas that would not otherwise have sites.

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Mobile Meals Toolkit
young girl with sunglasses handing out a milk carton

For those thinking about starting a mobile program, this toolkit provides a thoughtful set of questions to evaluate community need as well as organizational capacity to implement this service model. For those who are already running mobile programs, the toolkit provides detailed guidance, tips and best practices to support your work. The toolkit is divided into two sections: the first section provides an overview and preliminary needs assessment for mobile meals, while the second section goes deep into key aspects of program planning and implementation.

This toolkit was designed for experienced summer meals program sponsors and created with support from the Arby’s Foundation, in collaboration with Community Wealth Partners (a Share Our Strength organization).

Section 1: Overview and Needs Assessment

For those who are just getting started with mobile meals or considering opportunities to improve an existing program, these resources provide a thoughtful set of questions and guidance to determine the level of need and organizational capacity to successfully implement this service model.

​​​Section 2: Planning and Implementation

Once you have determined that mobile meals are the right fit for your program, the next step is to clarify which resources and community partners are needed to ensure success. You’ll also need to get into the specifics of what makes each program successful and develop an effective implementation plan that accounts for program regulations, operating costs, food safety, labor, transportation, and outreach.

​​​Section 3: Mobile Meals Success Stories

Dive into the following success stories, and be inspired by three unique mobile meals models that were thoughtfully designed to meet the needs of children and families. From Food for People's innovative transportation partnerships, to Seaford School District's "leapfrogging" model, to Garrett County's food trailers that provide both meals and shelter at sites in rural Maryland... each story will give you new ideas and help you to think strategically about designing a successful mobile meals program.

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