SOUTH SALT LAKE — "Rocky" rolled into the parking lot of the Granite School District administrative offices to great fanfare Friday for a celebration of the latest addition to the Utah Food Bank's fleet of food pantry trucks serving needy schoolchildren and their families.
The gift of the 36-foot refrigerated truck dubbed "Rocky," which will deliver food to Granite District schools, was made possible through a partnership among the Granite Education Foundation, Granite Credit Union and Utah Food Bank. The foundation and credit union donated funds for the mobile food pantry truck to serve the school district.
Linda Mariotti, assistant superintendent of the Granite School District, said the gift of the food truck acknowledges that "children can't learn when they're hungry."
That sensibility is "not always taken seriously," she said.
According to the Granite Education Foundation, 3 in 5 students in the Granite School District face food insecurities at home that inhibit their ability to learn.
“As a foundation, we are keenly aware that basic human needs within the district are growing at an alarming rate,” said foundation CEO Brent Severe.
“We exist to address these needs. We believe our kids have the right to learn without interruption because their stomach is grumbling, and they can’t think clearly. We have seen our food program grow, making a notable difference in academic performance, but there is still more that needs to be done."
Earlier this year, the school district announced that a budget surplus enabled it to waive fees for families that qualify for reduced meal prices and provide the meals for free. That change means some 36,000 students receive free lunch and breakfast or 55 percent of the student body.
Lynn Kuehne, CEO of Granite Credit Union, said the financial institution was pleased to partner in such an important gift. "The needs are so terrific, almost unbelievable, really."
David James, representing the Granite Education Foundation board of directors, said it is "unacceptable" that so many Utah children don't have enough to eat.
According to the Utah Food Bank, 392,000 Utahns are at risk of missing a meal each day. In addition, 1 in 6 Utah children is unsure where their next meal is coming from, according to the nonprofit organization's website.
Adding "Rocky" to the mobile school pantry fleet helps the Utah Food Bank reach 67 this year. The mobile pantries deliver food from Davis County to Utah County.
After a ribbon-cutting, speeches and a musical number performed by students from Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, "Rocky" got right to work Friday afternoon making its first delivery to Silver Hills Elementary School in Kearns.