HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County Schools and one nonprofit organization are facing some new obstacles this summer as they work to keep the county’s children fed.

The rapid growth in population paired with big grocery store price tags places more of a burden on feeding programs.

The most recent study by Feeding America shows about 17% of Horry County’s children deal with food insecurity.

As Horry County’s population continues to increase, feeding programs, like Help4Kids, expect the number of children needing meals to follow.

“It starts out in the beginning of the school year, where we might start feeding 2200, 2300, and I think our last count was about 3100 at the end of this school year,” said Margaret Gregory with Help4Kids.

Help4Kids organizers told News13’s Claire Purnell that they send out around 24,000 food items per week to schools during school year, and inflation has not made that task any easier.

“Not only has the price gone up, but we’re not able to always get the shipment that we order,” said Kathleen Mielke with Help4Kids. “Sometimes we order something and only half of it will come in. So we’re still on that supply and demand train right now and the food price has gone up, things that we were getting for a dollar is now $1.25.”

Horry County Schools nutrition services director Kim Johnson said the district serves about 28,000 fewer meals in the summer than in the school year.

While its summer feeding program is open to the public, the majority of children who benefit from it are those already participating in the schools summer classes and camps.

“We have 19 locations that we’re serving at,” Johnson said. “What the district typically does is they have a north, east, south and west area that they choose schools in those areas for students and they’re bussed there.”

Transportation is one of the biggest challenges both programs face in their efforts to feeding children.

Help4Kids said the areas who experience a higher need for meals are those communities that are over 30 miles from their office and just as far, if not further, from schools, and the district sees more densely population school communities being impacted more.

“The Conway schools are pretty heavily populated and the Myrtle Beach schools tend to have a lot of children who are involved in these programs,” Johnson said.

Both Help4Kids and HCS need more drivers to help eliminate the distance between the food and the children.

Those interested in volunteering at Help4Kids can click here.

To learn more about Horry County Schools’ summer feeding program, click here.

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Claire Purnell is a multimedia journalist at News13. Claire is from Louisville, Kentucky. Claire joined the News13 team in January 2023 after graduating from the University of Colorado-Boulder in December 2022. Follow Claire on Twitter and read more of her work here.

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