DORCHESTER, S.C. (WCBD) — Dorchester School District Two (DD2) began their free community food initiative Wednesday, and program leaders said they have already served thousands of meals.

The program will provide free bagged meals for local children once a week on Wednesdays from July 27 to August 10.

“We are getting food to children that really need food in this community,” said Michelle Knotts, resident district manager for Sodexo — the food service assisting with the program.

According to DD2’s website, to pick up meal bags each Wednesday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., families must first reserve meals by 10 a.m. each Tuesday.

To do this, DD2 reminds residents to call 843-695-4920 and choose option 1 (meal pickup registration). Then, leave a voicemail that includes the parent/guardian’s name and phone number, the number of student meal bags needed and which school location meals should be picked up from.

Meal pickups will take place at the following locations:

  • Alston-Bailey Elementary School (820 West 5th North Street, Summerville, SC 29483)
  • Fort Dorchester High School (8500 Patriot Boulevard, North Charleston, SC 29420)
  • Summerville High School (1101 Boone Hill Road, Summerville, SC 29483)

DD2 said students do not need to be present at meal pickup.

The district said the program is open to all area families with children ages 18 and younger, not just DD2 students.

“Everyone can definitely participate in this, and benefit from this,” Knotts said. “It’s not about a status, it’s not about a class. Look at what’s happening to the price of food in the grocery stores.”

Each meal bag contains five days worth of breakfast and lunch meals, including a variety of foods like fruits, vegetables, breads, cereal and milk, Knotts said.

“I can’t tell you how many ‘thank yous’ that we get. It’s just so warm, and it’s just so genuine,” she said. “And it reemphasizes the need out there.”

Knotts said the Summerville High School location alone was expecting to serve over 1,800 meals on Wednesday, meeting the needs of over 180 meal bag requests.

The district expects to provide close to 4,000 meals in total this week, and hopes to see bag requests double by next Wednesday’s pickup, Knotts said.

“It’s so great to see the kids. And you can truly just feel the gratefulness and the thankfulness coming from our parents in this community,” Knotts said.

The free meal program is through the South Carolina Department of Education, according to DD2’s press release.