I am RIFA – Brandi Schulz and the Bus Stop Cafe

Meet Brandi Schulz, RIFA’s Bus Stop Cafe Manager. For the past five years, every spring, summer, and fall break Brandi has been on the bus, traveling to the most vulnerable areas of Jackson to provide free meals to kids in need, ages 0-18. We sat down with Brandi to learn more about her time working at RIFA and how she’s seen the bus make an impact in our community.

Brandi moved to Jackson from Oklahoma in 2018 and quickly became involved at New Life Church. It was through her church family that she learned about RIFA, a local nonprofit that was looking to hire a new warehouse associate. Brandi applied and began working full-time in the warehouse that October. “It was great,” Brandi said. “I loved the team and there were a lot of fun aspects.” 

The Bus Stop Cafe ministry began in 2019. Brandi explained, “We tested out the bus on spring break. I said I would love to go and see what it looks like and meet the kids. Once I got to go, I told them I loved it. Hannah (RIFA’s Community Outreach Coordinator at the time) communicated that with Shaun and Lisa. They asked if I really did like it. I told them, yes! It’s amazing, right up my alley, and I love it!” That June and July, Brandi worked both on the bus and in the warehouse. She began teaching at Family Christian School that fall. “Since then I’ve solely done the Bus Stop Cafe at RIFA,” she said. 

When asked what a typical day running the bus looks like, Brandi explained, “Cheyenne will come in and check that the coolers have all the food that we ordered. Vic, he’s amazing, he loads the coolers onto the bus. Then we get on the bus and drive to the spots and feed the children.” This summer the bus goes to eight locations using a block schedule. Four locations are reached every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while another four locations are reached every Tuesday and Thursday. Meals on the bus follow the food pyramid. Brandi said, “It’s meals that they could get at their school.” Items include milk, juice, sandwiches, beef jerky, cheese, crackers, sunflower seeds, and Raisels. On Thursdays and Fridays, kids receive Snack Backpacks to feed them over the weekend. 

Every day Brandi, the driver, and one or two volunteers are on the bus. She explained that the kids feel safer knowing she’ll be on the bus every day, and how it’s great to have regular volunteers for the same reason. “Having the kids see a consistent face is the most helpful in getting to know them,” she said. “For Jaida to be on every Tuesday and Thursday – she’s a constant. They know it.That’s exciting. They like knowing who they’re going to see and recognizing people. Kendall Anthony was on last year a few times and came back again this year, so they remember him. It’s good for them to have those connections. If they recognize you and make that connection that you gave them food and were nice to them, they feel that much safer on the bus.” 

Brandi said one of the best changes she’s seen over the years is the Bus Stop Cafe’s partnership with The Read Team’s WOW Wagon. “I see more kids come out whenever they’re there because they’re so excited to get a book. The kids actually run to get their books. It’s been amazing.”

While the Bus Stop Cafe serves kids ages 0-18, it wasn’t until recently that older kids really started taking advantage of it. Brandi explained that it took time to build that relationship and trust with them. “We have 4 boys in particular who will come every day,” Brandi told us. “They obviously need it, so whenever they get on they’re eating hardcore then going out and about their day. It’s really nice to see them taking advantage of that. It started with us just giving them juices. Now they’re willing to get on the bus.”

Along with feeding the kids and building relationships with them, Brandi emphasized how the kids see the bus as a safe space to hang out with their friends. “It’s a place for them to come and connect and have snacks,” Brandi said. “They are dealing with so much more than we know. We are here to love them and give them what they want and need—which may be food or may not.” 

When asked about her favorite part of working on the Bus Stop Cafe, Brandi said she loves the kids and getting to meet more than just their physical needs. “They’re amazing. My favorite part is connecting with them. It’s a place where they can come, be safe, and connect with friends. It’s fun getting to see them grow over the years. There is one boy, I have seen him literally in diapers and this fall he’s starting kindergarten. It’s so crazy to watch them grow over the years and make a connection with families and keep it going. There’s another family who lived here, moved to Louisiana, and I just saw them this year at RIFA. They were so excited they said, ‘It is Brandi! You’re still here!” It’s really cool to have those connections with them and show them that I remember them, I love them, and I remember their names. It makes them happy and it makes their parents feel good and safe.” 

Brandi wrapped up the interview by saying how thankful she is for all the people who make the Bus Stop Cafe ministry possible. Brandi said, “I’m thankful for the parents who send their kids every day. Thanks to the volunteers who make this possible. We couldn’t do it without the parents, kids, volunteers, donors, or RIFA staff. It’s a very special thing when parents trust you with their kids day-in and day-out. I get to show them love by being the hands and feet of Jesus. It really is a wonderful program and I do love it.”


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