DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- On Tuesday, Durham Public Schools will begin its Summer Food Service Program to help eligible families who rely on school meals during the academic year access meals for the next two months. School meals make up the largest food security program in Durham -- one of the reasons why longtime DPS teacher Turquoise LeJeune Parker called the summer program invaluable.
"This opportunity to get food for their kids, that gives them just a little bit of wiggle room to be able to get other things done financially for the kids, for their family," Parker said.
Parker has taught in Durham Public Schools for eight years and said she has seen firsthand the burden that hunger puts on children -- even her elementary school students.
"How do I focus on my schoolwork, on my making good relationships, on my social and emotional learning, on growing as a whole student when I'm just trying to think about helping my Mom or my grandfather or grandmother or aunt or uncle figure out, 'what's next?'" she said.
An estimated 1 in 10 Triangle residents faces hunger regularly, a statistic that the Summer Food Service Program is taking aim at. The program provides eligible DPS families with access to meals at various sites in the Bull City all the way through Aug. 4. Parker said the gratitude she sees from her students' families is hard to quantify.
"They're still seeing that the community, that we hold each other down, that we take care of each other," Parker said. "And that feels good to know that somebody sees me and that somebody's trying to help me take care of my family."
There's a kickoff for this year's program on Tuesday at Oxford Manor Recreational Center in Durham from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Summer meal sites can be located across the state by texting FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304.