[image-1] Now that kids are out of school and it’s officially unbearably hot outside, you should take advantage of the scores of free summer meal programs available throughout the Lowcountry.

“An estimated 12.3 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2016, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members,” according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The summer can be especially tough for kids who depend on reliable school meals to get them through the day. About half of the children enrolled in Charleston County schools already qualify for free meals during the school year, according to the school district, and many families struggle to put food on the table for them during the summer.

Children were found to be food insecure in about 3.1 million households throughout the country in 2016, according to the USDA report. In South Carolina, 13 percent of households reported “low” to “very low” food insecurity.

Check out the following places where kids 18 and under (and sometimes their parents) can find nutritious and healthy meals from now until August:

1. Lowcountry Food Bank Summer Meals Program
June through the first week of August
Various Locations
Serving: 18 and younger (other food services are available for adults)

Text “FOOD” to 877-877 to find the summer meal site closest to you. The Lowcountry Food Bank, part of the Feeding America network, is headquartered in North Charleston but supplies healthy meals to sites across the 10 coastal counties in South Carolina. Some are open for just one or two meals, so make sure you pay attention to the services offered and the times they’re available.

Adults can take advantage of the food pantry services offered by the food bank’s regular, year-round programs. Click here for a list of eligible options, or call 843-747-8146 for a list of partner food agencies.

2. CCSD Seamless Summer Feeding Program
Mon. June 4 through Fri. Aug. 3
Various Locations
Serving: 18 and younger

The Charleston County School District prepares breakfast and home-made hot lunches at 11 school cafeterias throughout the county. The meals are then distributed to almost 100 open meal sites throughout the county. Click here for a list of eligible sites, including their respective dates of operation.

3. Kids Eat Free at MUSC
Mon. June 4 through Sun. Aug. 19
Cafeteria at main building, Rutledge Tower, and Ashley River Tower
Serving: 18 and younger

Every day for the next two months, kids can enjoy free breakfast and lunch at the cafeterias of three buildings at the Medical University of South Carolina. There, kids can make their own choices at the “Favorites” hot line or from designated packaged foods (as long as they’re marked with the friendly purple octopus). Kids must choose from at least three different food groups for each meal, and meals cannot be taken to-go. The program is partially funded by the USDA’s summer food service program.

Breakfast is from 7 to 10 a.m. and lunch is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The main building is located at 171 Ashley Ave. Rutledge Tower is located at 135 Rutledge Ave. (Keep in mind that the Rutledge Tower is closed weekends and holidays). The Ashley River Tower is located at 25 Courtenay Dr.

4. One80 Place
35 Walnut St.
Serving: Everyone

The homeless shelter at One80 Place serves lunch every day at noon in the community kitchen. In fact, it’s the only meal available to anyone who walks into the building, not just kids or those staying overnight at the shelter. It doesn’t hurt that the food, which is collected from generous local restaurants and grocery stores and prepared by the kitchen staff with the help of volunteers, is also certifiably delicious.

5. CPD’s Farmacy
69 Columbus St.
Serving: Everyone

Every Wednesday from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m at Mall Park., the Charleston Police Department helps run the Farmacy, which helps distribute free bags of fresh fruits and vegetables as a way of “improving social, emotional, and physical environments to promote a strong and healthy community,” according to a city Facebook post. Launched in November, the program is a collaboration between the Lowcountry Food Bank, Franklin C. Fetter Family Health Services, the S.C. Department of Mental Health, and other organizations.

6. The North Charleston Dream Center at Seacoast Church
Summer meal program: Mon. June 4 through Thurs. Aug 2
Food pantry: Year-round
5505 N. Rhett Ave. in North Charleston
Serving: 18 and younger (free summer meals), Everyone (food pantry)

This summer, kids can get free lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the North Charleston location of Seacoast Church. There are no other requirements for kids wishing to get a hot meal and a comfortable place to eat it.

Every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., the Seacoast Church campuses in North Charleston and Mt. Pleasant (750 Long Point Rd.) also help low-income residents by “providing groceries through a personal touch and communicating a positive message to each family.” Those wishing to participate must be able to show proof of residence and income.

If you know of any other programs providing free or low-cost food options this summer, feel free to e-mail me at adammanno@charlestoncitypaper.com.

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