United Way of the Midlands, headquartered at 1818 Blanding Street, is partnered with the city of Columbia on the Meal Share Collaborative program.

Dijonnaise Greene, who comes to Finlay Park regularly, enjoyed the sunshine today with her child.

For some, getting a free meal is life or death.

But now, thanks to United Way of the Midlands and the city of Columbia, those in need are now able to receive food donations regularly throughout the week.

Starting on April 30 at Finlay Park, donors will be able to provide a set schedule for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for Columbia’s homeless – all with a free permit, granted by the city.

Dijonnaise Greene, a regular visitor at the park, believes the recent change will be beneficial to many.

“They will know when to actually come by and get the food, versus, you know, one day, someone might not come by, and a person could miss out on a meal,” Greene said.

Non-profit organizations like Project 153, Food Not Bombs, and nine others currently hold permits to provide the food. Organizations will also be able to coordinate their efforts.

“You can be part of something bigger than just you, and maybe a smaller group of friends,” said Jennifer Moore, who is the senior director and head of the Financial Stability Council at United Way’s headquarters.

Moore thinks the regulations will help keep well-meaning but unauthorized citizens from bringing food that may be contaminated or poorly refrigerated.

“It’s wonderful that people want to come out and feed,” Moore said, “The importance about being involved with the meal share collaborative is that we want to make sure the food is safe.”

During weekdays, those in need will be able to get dinner from 6 p.m.- 8 p.m. On weekends, breakfast will run from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m., lunch from noon – 2 p.m., and dinner from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.