Island Grown Initiative free lunch program is drawing to a close next week and so far the nonprofit has already served thousands of free meals at 14 pick-up spots around the Vineyard.

By the time the eight-week community lunch service ends August 18, it will have served 14,000 lunches, Island Grown’s food equity director Merrick Carreiro told the Gazette. That’s more than in both 2021 and 2022, though those programs didn’t run as long.

Now in its seventh year, the free lunch service was established to feed school children during summer vacation but is also open to other hungry people on the Island.

“It’s meant for anyone in need of food support,” Ms. Carreiro said.

“We have a huge unhoused population, and those people need food,” she added.

This summer marks the first time Island Grown has had a commercial kitchen of its own to produce the lunches. The organization last year purchased a fully equipped catering kitchen in the airport business park from chef Jan Buhrman.

To prepare, package and distribute hundreds of meals every weekday, 40 people have been volunteering under Island Grown’s staff chef, Jessica Miller, Ms. Carreiro said.

Having a dedicated kitchen has made it possible to offer a much wider menu than in past years, she added.

“We had such a variety of food going out,” Ms. Carreiro said. “This is the first year we’ve had such diversity.”

For instance, she said, recipients at town libraries now can choose meat, vegetarian or sun-butter-and-jelly wraps.

Vineyard farms, including Island Grown’s in Vineyard Haven and Slough and Morning Glory farms in Edgartown, have donated 800 pounds of produce to the program, Ms. Carreiro said.

The program’s costs are funded by charitable donations and grants, with year-after-year support from organizations including the West Chop Community Fund, the Cape and Islands United Way and the Campbell’s Soup Fund, she said.

After the lunch program ends next week, Ms. Carreiro said, the Island Grown kitchen will switch over to processing gleaned produce for school kitchens and making prepared meals for the Island Food Pantry, town councils on aging and other groups feeding hungry Islanders.

“We give out as much as we can,” she said.