The Lunchbox Express

by Kristin Pazulski

Photography by Adrian DiUbaldo

It’s a new spin on the ever-so-popular food trucks—a food truck with a higher purpose. Allen Levy and his wife, Hannah, have launched a summer lunch program to bring food to children of families that struggle to find a meal everyday.

The Lunch Box Express is a short, decorated bus which will visit the parking lots of four schools in the Englewood neighborhood in a pilot program that brings food to children who need it most. “Our goal is to feed hungry kids. … We’re trying to reach out to them to find out how many will respond,” Hannah said.

During the school year, Allen said, about 1,500 students in the Englewood School District receive free meals Monday through Friday. In the summer months, that resource is gone. “At these schools, 50-70 percent of the kids receive subsidized lunches. Then you think about it—they don’t get anything in the summer. It’s pathetic,” Allen said. Allen, a retired architect who has worked with nonprofits for years to help feed the hungry in Colorado, and Hannah, a retired corporate executive, created the Lunch Box Express to fill that gap.

Englewood was chosen because it’s a summer lunch desert. There are no school district summer programs to offer lunch to participating students, said Hannah. And even if there were, not all students would want to participate, or could because of time and cost. The schools on the Lunch Box Express route are those where more than half of the student population receives federally subsidized meals.

The Levy’s target is to serve 200 students a day, though they expect more may come as the summer goes on. They will be at the four schools Monday through Friday between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M. for about 45 minutes at each location (locations can be found by calling the Hunger Free Colorado Hotline). The program runs from May 31 to August 15.

No students will be turned away, nor will they have to present proof of need. Even if a friend or cousin is visiting from another neighborhood, they can get a lunch.

Hannah said the entire project has cost them a lot less than they expected, and they hope their program can be a pilot for similar programs in other areas. The only challenge has been finding enough volunteers. They need at least two or three volunteers to help them per shift (one hour a day) because of the paper work and the need to make sure the students eat the food in sight of the bus to avoid students not eating the meals themselves.

“If it wasn’t for government regulations, two people could do this,” Allen said.

The Levy’s have had help from the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Share the Strength and Food Bank of the Rockies, but for the most part it’s been a labor of love for two dedicated people, who found a gap in the hunger prevention effort and worked to fill it themselves by filling a school bus full of lunch boxes. •