The Marana Cares bus will deliver nutritious food and more to children in need beginning this Christmas break.

Courtesy photo

In an effort to better serve underprivileged families in the district, the Marana Unified School District has partnered with the Marana Health Center to launch the Marana Cares Mobile service. 

Marana Cares is a refurbished school bus designed to provide free, nutritious and delicious meals to children during times when school is not in session. It will debut this winter break to serve the more rural Roadrunner and Picture Rocks communities.

The mobile unit offers a fun dining experience in an air conditioned, handicap accessible setting with interior and exterior serving areas. Food is available to all children, whether they attend a MUSD school or not. Meals will also be available for family members for a nominal cost. 

“We recognize that nutrition and health are critical to a child’s ability to learn and be successful,” said Marana Unified School District Superintendent Doug Wilson. “In keeping with our commitment to our students and our community, we believe our Marana Cares Mobile provides the opportunity to meet these critical needs during school breaks and summer months so students are better prepared to return to school ready to learn. We are excited to be able to give even more back to our community by doing what is the very best for children.”

Eventually the program will team with the Marana Health Center to provide well-checks, immunizations, sports physicals and dental services. 

The bus will also be Wi/Fi enabled and have chromebooks and tablets available for students to take advantage of educational games and programs. The bus will also serve as a mobile literacy program for the district and help students stay engaged in educational activities during their time away from school.

“During the summer, they will be exposed to educational things as well as nutrition and health services,” said Wilson

During the summer months, the bus will serve as an extension of the USDA Summer Food Service Program. Marana area schools provide free meals for students during the summer, but it can be especially difficult for some families to get to schools, especially in the Roadrunner Elementary and Picture Rocks areas, so the mobility of the Marana Cares bus can help make healthy meals available to more students. 

“There are students through no fault of their own, and many times no fault of their parents, their parents are doing everything they can, who go without,” said Wilson.  “We can take care of them during the school day, in fact we can take care of them over the weekend because we can send home a backpack with food. But during the breaks, we can’t. There are some real ingredients to student success and one of them is being nourished.”

Marana Cares Mobile does not cost the school district anything and is made possible through private donations, corporate sponsorships and charitable foundations. The Marana Schools 2340 Foundation has already donated.

Wilson first got the idea for the program when he read about a South Carolina School District who used a food truck to help feed students. 

“I kind of kicked around the idea for years,” said Wilson. “I pitched this about a year ago and everyone thought it would be a good idea.”

The Marana Cares Mobile will be open during winter break with a pair of holiday location. From December 21-23 and December 28-30, the bus will be at the southeast corner of Sandario Road and Anthony Road from 11 a.m. – noon and then from 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. it will be at the Marana Domestic Water Improvement District at 6560 W. El Tiro Road.

The plan is to add a second bus that will be identical to the current one, but will have dental services in back. 

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