Jovanna Griffin could be heard before she was seen from within the bright food truck parked in front of the library in downtown Beaufort on Tuesday.
"Come on over," she said, greeting a group of children approaching the truck as she leaned out the window. "We've got beefy mac-and-cheese for you."
Families sat at folding tables while the children munched away at the meal on disposable plates. Soon the truck would motor to its next library location, but not before serving more than 30 kids free meals.
Sodexo's Lowcountry Cruzer food truck is serving free lunch to children under 18 through July 20 through a partnership with Beaufort County School District and the county library system. The truck stops at the St. Helena branch library at 10:45 a.m., the Beaufort branch at noon and finally the Lobeco branch at 1:30 p.m. on weekdays.
Each stop lasts about 45 minutes and only children are served.
The summer program is an extension of the free lunch program during the school year, serving areas of the county most in need.
"Kids' hunger doesn't stop in the summer," said Jessica Perez, director of wellness at Sodexo.
The food truck was launched last year at Beaufort County middle and high schools, offering a different selection than students might see in the cafeteria. A flat screen television mounted to the side of the truck broadcasts wellness messages and menu options.
The summer program coincides with the library system's summer reading program, which drew 6,000 participants last summer, Beaufort County Library System director Ray McBride said.
"We kind of felt like this was a natural fit," he said.
Sodexo owns and staffs the truck. The lunches are federally funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and meet certain nutritional requirements.
Griffin and colleague Arlene Blue served 33 lunches at the Beaufort stop on Tuesday, the second day of the program. Perez and Sodexo communications manager Kelsey Wrinkle anticipated between 90-100 lunches would be handed out before the end of the day, about double the first day.
Some visitors expected the truck and walked over from the surrounding downtown neighborhoods. Others, like Beaufort's Jason Taylor and his two daughters, were visiting the library and lucked into a meal.
All were drawn to Griffin's warm welcome.
"I love the babies," she said. "I love to see them smile."