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One text message could tell you where a free meal is

Published: Jun. 5, 2017 at 6:25 PM EDT
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For too many children in East Tennessee, finding their next meal during summer months is difficult.

Derrick Lambert, with the

, said nearly half a million children in East Tennessee rely on school meal programs.

"But when school lets out, only about 14 percent of those kids have access to summer meals," he said. "We know access to school breakfast and lunch goes away, rates of hunger increase during summer months, but a solution exists," Lambert explained.

His goal is to let everyone know about the places they can go to get free food.

If you text "food" and your zip code to 877-877, within seconds, you will receive a text with the participating locations closest to you, and what times they are serving lunch or dinner.

WVLT's Sarah Jane Anderson tried it out and went to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Center in Alcoa. About 20 kids were there eating a nutritious lunch Monday.

"They're always hungry," said Director Lilli Brown. "I think what they are doing, as far as the free lunch and breakfast is concerned, is wonderful, because some of the kids don't get food like they should," she said.

Brown was surprised to see her center on the list of locations provided in the text, but she was not disappointed.

Lambert said that's the problem - not many know about the text messaging service.

"That's really what we're about right now, is making sure people have access to this information," he said.

He encouraged folks who do know about the program to tell others.