Each day, Nathen Nerf knows the time to arrive and the place to be.
"I actually get there because I'm hungry," he said.
His mom Theresa watches her son pace back and forth, waiting for the purple and white school bus to pull onto their street.
"He wants to be first. He wants to be here. He thinks if nobody is here, the bus is going to drive away," she said.
The mobile lunch room is a new concept in Manatee County. Each year, the Summer Food Service program offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides students the opportunity to enjoy a free breakfast and lunch five days a week, regardless of income status.
Officials in Manatee noticed kids weren't showing up for the free meals.
Nathen's mom couldn't bring him.
"It just did not work. I'm disabled so I can't walk a lot. It coming here to our front door is awesome," Theresa said.
Officials turned the retired bus into a lunch room on wheels. They bring it to where the kids hang out.
"We know some of them already from the schools, and they recognize us so they feel safe coming to the bus," said food and nutrition specialist Jean Katsihtis.
The program helps parents stay on track financially.
"My budget is $75 a week. This provides him his lunch, and that is at least $25 to $35 a week I'm saving. I can at least pay bills," Theresa said.
The bus stops at three different locations in Manatee County. It stays at each one for at least half an hour and feeds anyone up to the age of 18.
"Our meals are great because they offer protein, fruits and vegetables, low fat and skim milk," said nutritionist Skye Grundy.
Aside from being nutritious, Nathen's mom said they taste good too.
"He likes it and he is a very picky child with food, so him liking it means it has to be delicious," Theresa said.
Nathen gives them high marks.
"Probably a star 5. Max," he said.
To find a location where free meals are served, just dial 2-1-1 or visit www.summerfoodflorida.org
Residents can also call the Professional Support Center at (941)-751-6550. There is also an app available to find summer feeding sites called "NutriSlice."
Manatee's mobile food location sites are:
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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