During the summer, Marana Unified School District, like many school districts, has free meal programs for kids in their area. However, one Marana mom is concerned about kids having to eat in the heat.

Marana Cares Mobile is a bus that makes stops at two different locations each day during the week to provide free meals. However, April Moore says once the bus fills up, kids have to eat outside while standing in the heat and they are not allowed to take the meals to go.

Moore loves the program and has been using it for a while. The bus is amazing, Moore said. I mean its a great thing for people out here that are having a hard time feeding their kids.

She says she typically has about sixteen kids to feed each day.

When they first opened we would feed the kids on the bus, because there was room and the kids loved it, she said. They thought it was like the funnest thing ever.

However, as more people also started going, the bus sometimes reached capacity. It wasnt a problem, until recently.

We would take our trays and then we would come home and the kids would eat the meals here (home), but now theyre saying that that cant happen even though weve been doing it for years, Moore said.

In a statement MUSD stated:

Ensuring children and families have access to nutritious meals throughout the year is a service we are committed to providing our families. Marana USD provides summer meals through the Summer Food Service Program for Children, a federally funded program operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture nationwide. As a qualified provider, there are numerous rules and requirements we must follow. Children must be present during meal service to receive a meal and meals must be consumed on site. During COVID, exceptions were made and children did not have to be present, however, students are now required to be present to receive a meal. We are proud to offer this important service at several of our schools and via Marana Cares Mobile, our mobile food service bus, which travels to two sites in the district with greater needs. Marana Cares Mobile can comfortably accommodate 23 and is air-conditioned. Typically, this is plenty of space to accommodate children.

The USDAs website supports MUSDs statement that meals must be eaten on site. It states, SFSP regulations require sponsors to ensure children consume meals at the site. Therefore, meals must be consumed onsite in order to be eligible for reimbursement, unless the meal is served on a state agency approved field trip or offsite consumption is otherwise approved by FNS.”

Moore said exceptions were made during the Covid-19 pandemic, so she questions why rules cant change now for reasons like weather.

The Arizona Department of Education stated while exceptions are limited, they can be made due to weather.

Our state agency gained federal approval to allow program operators to opt-in to a waiver for providing children with free meals on the go or through a parent/guardian pick-up process when the National Weather Service has issued a Heat Advisory, Excessive Heat Warning or Excessive Heat Watch for the area where the site is located, ADE stated in an email. Summer meal providers must first opt into the waiver and complete reporting requirements.