Durham groups to help provide meals for students once school district stops

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On Thursday, the Durham Public School District announced it would be suspending its meal-distribution program after an employee at one of the distribution sites tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee worked at Bethesda Elementary. The district said the employee did not have direct contact with the families and did not have any symptoms while at work.

However, district officials told CBS 17 that suspending the program was the right thing to do.

“It’s not a great decision, but it’s the best decision that we can make right now with one of our employees having been diagnosed with COVID-19,” said Chip Sudderth, spokesperson for Durham Public Schools.

However, thousands of families relied on the program.

In the first week of virtual learning, DPS served 27,857 lunches and 27,854 snacks for a total of 55,711 meals at 81 sites.

Tanya Kelley is a grandmother who said she and her grandchildren relied on the is meal program everyday.

Kelley is still displaced from her McDougald Terrace apartment and is still staying at a hotel.

“A lot of us can’t cook,” Kelley said. “So we appreciated it, you know? My concern now is that people will get lost in the shuffle.”

Sudderth said they will be working with outside organizations like the DPS Foundation and No Kid Hungry to help the students get fed.

However, Sudderth admitted he is not sure these organizations can do this alone.

“I don’t know if it will be enough to cover the gap,” Sudderth said. “We need our entire community to step up and help.”

The DPS Foundation partners with food banks and restaurants to feed 1,500 kids on the weekends. Now it plans to expand the program to help feed kids during the week.

“We are working with the city and the county and other food relief organizations to find out how we can work together to make sure students continue to get food throughout the week,” said Magan Gonzales-Smith, executive director of the DPS Foundation.

Gonzales-Smith said they are encouraging people to donate to local food banks as the need will increase in the coming weeks.

“We are really trying to get donations to go to food bank, to the interfaith food shuttle and those organizations that are set up to receive donations,” Gonzales-Smith said.

Durham Public Schools will be distributing their last meals on Monday, April 6th.

They will be distributing a week’s worth of meals to the following 13 locations:

  • Bethesda Elementary
  • R.N. Harris Elementary
  • Shepard Middle School
  • Githens Middle
  • Southwest Elementary
  • Lakewood Middle
  • Eno Valley Elementary
  • Eastway Elementary
  • Glenn Elementary
  • Sandy Ridge Elementary
  • Hillandale Elementary
  • Club Blvd Elementary School
  • Southern High School

Sudderth said that after next week, families can reach out to No Kid Hungry and find the closest drive-thru or pick-up sites to where they live. Families can actually text FOODNC to 877-877 to find out the three closest sites.

For more information on the meals that No Kid Hungry provides, go to their website.

For more information on the meals that the DPS Foundation provides, go to their website.

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