Three big green buses with a friendly frog on the side will make the rounds throughout Federal Way this summer, in a joint effort between Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) and United Way-King County (UWKC).
Named FRED by the district for Fun, Read, Eat, Dream, the three buses are part of the summer meals program FWPS has provided to all children ages 19 and under since 1989. The program also ties into a One Million Meals program that United Way is rolling out this summer.
"In Federal Way itself, there are about 12,000 children who rely on the free and reduced lunch program," said UWKC representative Michaele Szillat at the June 11 school board meeting. "Only about one in seven actually use the summer meals program which is available. That puts us near the bottom for our participation rate, about 40th out of the 50 states. So clearly there are kids who aren't getting all the nutrition they need, they're facing hunger, and they have a diet their family can afford but isn't very nutritious."
Szillat said UWKC is still looking for volunteers for the program. Visit http://www.uwkc.org/ways-to-volunteer/ongoing-campaigns/one-million-meals.
Szillat said FRED/One Million Meal primary sites include: Club Palisades, Appian Way, Camelot Square, Westway Parkway, Greystone Meadows, and Cottonstone Apartments. Companion sites include the Mariposa Apartments, the Boys and Girls Club, EX3 Teen Center, Villa Capri Apartments, Steel Lake Park and Forest Cove Apartments.
Mary Asplund, Director of Nutrition Services for FWPS, gave a brief description of the work that's gone into FRED.
"Unique to FRED, we are now able to go to children's homes using retrofitted, retired school buses," Asplund said. "The process of creating FRED has been a labor of love. It's been a joint effort by so many people, departments in our district, and people in our community."
Among the departments and community members involved were the district's IT department, transportation department, nutrition services and maintenance departments. Community partners included the City of Federal Way, Federal Way Lions Club, Rotary Club, the Multi-Service Center and Communities In Schools of Federal Way.
"When we blend our meals with academic enrichment and growth, we truly nourish our children and serve our community," Asplund said. "This is a project that's not just the district or the city. This is a community wrapping its arms around a project that we know, this year, will benefit seven large neighborhoods."
The board was impressed with the program and the collaboration it fostered among so many community partners.
"It's fabulous that we're going to children and families…instead of always expecting them to find us," said school board member Claire Wilson.
"It's obviously going to serve a great need in the community this summer, and that's what we're all about," said Superintendent Rob Neu. "I'm so proud…(and) thankful for the idea and the concept and the effort it took to make this a reality."
More information is available at www.parenthelp123.org. To volunteer, contact