Standing in the cafeteria at Charles B. Aycock High School, Maxwell Cooper watched from afar as a fellow student asked others for their leftovers.
Even though he had already eaten his own lunch, the student walked around the cafeteria and tried to find others with food they were not going to eat.
Watching from a distance, the 15-year-old football player hesitated to approach the student.
Then one day, he got up the courage to ask why.
"I asked, 'Why are you asking people for food?' and he said, ''cause I don't get to eat at home,'" Cooper said.
"I was kind of heartbroken and from that day, I've been trying to get as many people as I can to eat the food, be appreciative of the food, because you never know who needs this food."
An active member of the Boys and Girls Club of Wayne County, Cooper has attended the club since he was 9 years old and he partakes in the free summer meal program offered there.
"It's a great feeding program, especially because we have so many unfortunate kids here and not many kids can eat," Cooper said. "I always try to tell people, 'Don't sleep on this food,' because this program is really helping a lot of kids out there and this is a big deal."
The free summer meal program is offered to children age 18 and younger Monday through Friday, said Jeff Barnes, athletic director of the Boys and Girls Club, on Royall Avenue. The meals are vital to some of the children who attend the facility, he said.
"If this program is not here, some kids won't get fed," he said.
The Boys and Girls Club is not the only meal program in the city feeding kids who experience high levels of food insecurity during the summer. According to Goldsboro Community Relations Director Shycole Simpson-Carter, there are currently 13 locations in the city where kids ages 18 years and younger can get a free, balanced meal for breakfast or lunch.
"Wayne County was noted as the largest serving feeding county for the KIDS Summer Meal program ..." Simpson-Carter said.
A big part of the program includes meal sites at the Herman Park Center, W.A. Foster Center and the Boys and Girls Club, as well as and other partners that contributed to serving children in the program a year ago, she said.
In the summer of 2017, the KIDS Summer Meal program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and sponsored by the N.C. Food Bank of Central and Eastern N.C., provided 10,477 meals to children and youth at the city's two feeding sites, the Herman Park Center and W.A. Foster Center. Simpson-Carter expects the number of meals served to rise substantially.
Today, two out of three Wayne County kids experience some level of food insecurity. Simpson-Carter said that this can mean that they either do not have access to one balanced, nutritional meal a day or do not have access to one meal, regardless of nutritional value. She said that this is largely due to the fact that 50 percent of children are living in poverty in Wayne County.
"That's a high number, and that's why these programs are so vital to help with that disparity, that gap for those children to help them have at least one healthy, balanced meal a day," Simpson-Carter said.
As the level of poverty for the county increases, so does the number of children who attend the summer feeding programs, she said.
"You cannot overlook the issues of poverty here in Wayne County and expect that number is not going to increase from last year because the number for the level of poverty has increased each year," Simpson-Carter said. "There's a lack of something, and as a community we've got to figure out how to identify what that lack is to get them in a better situation of not having to experience hunger."
By giving children a choice between eating at a place that can introduce cognitive and social stimulation, Simpson-Carter expects the number of crimes in the city to decrease. She believes these programs will help keep children out of the criminal system by preventing them from having to commit crimes to satisfy their hunger.
"It deals with their psychological issue too, when you're having to deal with that stress of not knowing what you're going to eat today or it's only going to be a meal, and I hope that it's a meal that fills me up . . . " she said. "It's very hard to be a productive student. It's very hard to engage people when all you got is, 'What am I going to eat? I'm hungry.'"
Additional local free meal sites for children age 18 and younger, Monday through Friday, are located at:
Rebuilding Broken Places 2105 N. William St., serving breakfast 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and lunch, noon to 1 p.m.
W.A. Foster Center, 1012 S. John St., serving lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more information, contact Rebuilding Broken Places at (919) 581-9178 and the W.A. Foster Center at 919-734-4164.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the Woods Chapel United American Free Will Baptist Church, at 928 New Hope Road, offers free lunch to children age 18 and younger from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The church can be contacted at (919) 344-8846.
Skylar Kelly, Herman Park Center assistant recreation leader, said that even though the meals are meant for children who attend summer camps at Herman Park, they will offer a meal to any child in need.
"We do different activities throughout the day and week, so it's only right for them to have a lunch," Kelly said. "There are kids who do have a need and aren't sure when their next meal will be."
A Lot of Direction, Love, and Affection (ADLA) also serves free lunches via food truck at several locations in Wayne County. The truck visits the following locations in Goldsboro:
Bethel Church, 2308 N. William St.
Fairview Homes, 1729 Edgerton St.
Lincoln Homes, 1009 Slaughter St.
West Haven, 701 W. Oak St.
Grand Day Pointe, 2300 Day Circle
First African Baptist Church, 806 Harris St.
Little Washington, 600 Whitfield Drive
Elmwood Terrace, 709 N. Waters St.
Breakfast is served every day between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., followed by lunch from noon to 1 p.m. Contact ADLA at 919-299-4450 for additional times and locations.
No Kid Hungry N.C. provides four ways to find free summer meal locations for children age 18 and younger in their area. Children can locate the nearest meal location by texting: FoodNC to 877-877 or Summer Meals to 97779. They can also call the toll-free number 1-866-3Hungry (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8Hambre (1-877-842-6273) or visit the USDA's summer meal site finder at http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.