Island Grown Initiative is preparing to serve up to 800 free lunches a day to Martha’s Vineyard children this summer — four times as many as they provided for all ages last year.

“That’s based on the meals that they’ve been serving at the schools right now,” said Sophie Abrams Mazza, IGI’s director of food recovery and equity, who oversees the six-week summer lunch program.

While many Island parents are, or soon will be, going back to work, Ms. Mazza said, the changed business environment and economic uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic mean it’s too soon to predict a drop in the number of Island children facing food insecurity.

“It’s hard to know if people will be employed to the level that they usually are, so we’re really trying to plan for the worst-case scenario,” she said.

This is the fourth year of the Vineyard’s summer lunch service, which began in 2017 as an extension of the federally funded school lunch program.

Cumbersome regulations and mountainous paperwork required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent IGI looking for another funding source in 2018, when a private donor made it possible to feed all ages — not just school-age children —five days a week at three down-Island sites.

Private funding continues to support the program, which Ms. Mazza said has grown from 3,200 meals in 2018 to 5,600, served at five locations last year. Meals are also served during winter and spring school vacations.

For 2020, IGI had ballparked 6,000 meals for all ages. As in past years, they would have been served family style at libraries and other sites chosen to bring people together for social interaction as well as dining.

But with community gatherings still risky, Ms. Mazza said this year’s summer lunches will be distributed the way students have been receiving their meals since the shutdown began: by curbside pickup, at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and a handful of other spots.

Student families must enroll through their schools to take part in the summer program, which Ms. Mazza said will run from July 6 to August 14.

“Of course, we want to open it back up to all ages next summer, but we have no idea what to expect,” Ms. Mazza said.

To help make up for the loss of summer meals for older Islanders who have joined the lunches over the past two years, Ms. Mazza said IGI will provide more prepared foods to the Island Food Pantry and Serving Hands.

This year’s summer lunch menu will be a simplified version of past seasons, Ms. Mazza said.

“One of the reasons is just that we are increasing the numbers so, so much, and the other is we have to package everything. Last year we did everything family style, and it allowed us to have more intricate meals,” she said.

Oak Bluffs School chef Jean Zdankowski will again be preparing the lunches out of the high school kitchen, aided by IGI’s Katie Ruppel and another chef-assistant duo.

“Jean is really great, because she appreciates having healthy food and fresh food and also feels strongly about making foods that kids will eat — and she knows what those are,” Ms. Mazza said. “She’s really able to walk the line there.”

Even with a simplified menu, the projected fourfold increase in need means IGI needs to seek more funding for this year’s lunches, Ms. Mazza said.

Other nonprofit food programs on Martha’s Vineyard, including Serving Hands, St. Augustine’s and the Island Food Pantry, have also seen sharply increased demand.

“Our numbers of visits were already up even before this crisis,” said food pantry executive director Kayte Morris last Thursday, at an online meeting of the Food Equity Network.

Led by IGI executive director Rebecca Haag, the network of social service agencies, nonprofits, churches and volunteers has been working since 2016 to widen Islanders’ access to high-quality, fresh and nutritious food and to raise awareness of the need.

While the pandemic shutdown has spurred an increase in food insecurity, network members at last week’s meeting said donors have rallied with more support as well.

“People have been very generous in helping us out,” said Betty Burton of the Vineyard Committee on Hunger.

“We’re hearing from a lot of donors,” said Ms. Haag.

“People are now asking how much more money is needed, what is the gap in services out there, who aren’t we yet feeding, what form of food do they need and how do we reach them?”