REDMOND —

In four apartment complexes along SW Rimrock Way, kids hear a chirpy jingle and get excited. But it’s not an ice cream truck they find in the parking lot — it’s Redmond School District employee Lisa Daniels, riding a yellow tricycle with a refrigerated cart in tow, that’s stuffed with free, nutritious meals and snacks.

Although she brings fruit cups, cheese sticks and milk rather than ice pops, Daniels and her tricycle have become a trusted summer attraction for kids every weekday in the neighborhood near Redmond High School.

“These kids, they’re quite fond of Lisa,” said Janice Hueners, who oversees the district’s free summer meals program. “They want to go with her; they want to ride the trike.”

Daniels has ridden the tricycle since the summer of 2017, one year after the program launched. Although Redmond’s food tricycle has visited the exact same four apartment complexes — and the Cascade Swim Center parking lot across the street — since it launched, the amount of meals served has ballooned to 55 to 60 meals a day this summer, compared to 25 daily meals in its first year.

Daniels said she believes more kids have grabbed food from the cart this year because it’s become a dependable institution.

“The longer you’re there, you’re more of a part of that community,” she said. “So they expect you to be there.”

According to district spokeswoman Kelly Jenkins, the district chose a tricycle instead of a larger vehicle, like a food cart, for a couple reasons.

First, it was significantly less expensive than a larger car, and there would be no costs related to fuel. Furthermore, the tricycle, being smaller than a food truck, is more able to fit into narrow driveways of certain apartment complexes.

The tricycle’s five delivery locations, all in the same block as Redmond High School, haven’t changed since the program started.

And Hueners said that likely won’t change, due to the safety concerns about Daniels riding a tricycle while towing a 100-pound-plus cart filled with food around Redmond. Furthermore, going even just a few blocks east of Redmond High would mean Daniels would have to pedal the tricycle through the steep hills of the Dry Canyon — a difficult task even with a battery-powered “power pack” helping her move the trike.

“Are there other areas in town that could probably benefit from this? I’m sure there are, but we haven’t gone into those areas,” Hueners said. “The proximity of this makes it work. It would be a long day otherwise, especially in the heat.”

Daniels said Rimrock is a safe street for a tricycle rider, because it fits in the road’s bike lane and drivers tend to drive slower due to the school zone speed limit signs, even though the slower speed limit isn’t enforced in the summer.

“I think everybody’s pretty respectful,” Daniels said. “They slow down, and they look for me; it’s a good street to ride your bike on.”

The school district does provide free meals, not delivered by tricycle, at locations spread throughout Redmond, including Sage, Tom McCall and M.A. Lynch elementary schools, the Redmond library and Sam Johnson Park.

The hours and dates for the free summer meals can be found at Redmond School District’s website.

School district staff can put ice sheets in the metal box behind the tricycle to keep milk, fruit and vegetables cool during the sweltering Redmond summer. And like an ice cream truck, it can play jingles through a small speaker — something that can occasionally confuse kids looking for ice pops.

“Some of them think I’m the ice cream lady,” Daniels said. “But it’s better, it’s lunch!”

Daniels and Hueners said providing these students, some of whom come from low-income households, with free meals every weekday during the summer is important, as some families depend on free school meals during the traditional school year.

“The parents say they’re so grateful because their kids go to school all year, and now, they’re home,” Daniels said. “It’s just so much easier to have you come by and provide them a meal that they wouldn’t necessarily have.”

And whether its on the tricycle or at one of the school district’s static free lunch locations, Hueners said giving kids a free meal is “the (most fun) thing you could ever imagine.”

“You’re giving free food to little kids that are really excited,” she said. “I have a ball.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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