From the front, Tuscaloosa County High looked about as empty as one might expect a school would on a Monday in the summer.

Around back, though, was a different story.

TCHS and several other schools in the Tuscaloosa County School System have been busy providing free meals to families throughout the summer through their Summer Feeding Program.

Marilyn Frieson is the manager of the Child Nutrition Program for the Tuscaloosa County School System. She and four other program members were at TCHS Monday morning handing out seven days'' worth of breakfast and lunch at a time, alongside gallons of milk and fresh fruit via curbside delivery.

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"We're extremely happy to be here; we've all worked so hard, and we haven't stopped," Frieson said. "It's a joy knowing that the kids are still being taken care of during the summer."

The program runs throughout the months of June and July, and meals are available for pickup each Monday at Tuscaloosa County High, Holt High, Northside High and Brookwood High.

This year, the program returned to the curbside pickup method that became necessary at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last summer. Frieson said this was largely because of how efficient it was to hand out meals, resulting in a near-record turnout last summer.

The 2021 Summer Feeding Program officially kicked off June 7, and during that first week, TCSS schools were able to serve around 150 families at two locations and another 300 at the other two. According to Terri Brewer, director of public relations for TCSS, those numbers are expected to grow by summer's end.

"Families are so appreciative," Brewer said. "You also have to think that some parents are still unemployed, so imagine the weight off their backs this is. Not to mention that kids can easily microwave these meals if their parents are at work. They don't have to worry about a kid trying to turn the oven on."

Since last March, the Child Nutrition Program has served 2.8 million meals locally through its curbside program, in-school services and other outlets.

This curbside program is open to everybody ages 18 or younger. No registration is required, and families can just drive up to any of the schools participating each week. One package of meals is given per child present in the vehicle.

Frieson also wanted to mention that this program is not just for TCSS kids, and that "even kids visiting grandma and grandpa in town over the summer can come by."

Parents of any child under the age of 18 can swing by any of the four sites on a Monday to pick up meals that will last a week, all free of charge.

For more information, follow the Tuscaloosa County Child Nutrition Program on Facebook.

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