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Highlights: Durham Public Schools Summer Meals

Before the sun rises, Durham Public Schools Nutrition Services employees are hard at work preparing more than 5,000 lunches that will be distributed to 92 summer meals sites across the county. Jim Keaton, director of Child Nutrition Services for Durham Public Schools, runs the summer meals program to bring nutritious meals to students even when school is not in session.

Prepared lunches are packaged into cardboard boxes, labeled, and placed on the table that corresponds to the driver who will pick up and deliver those meals.

Inside the cafeteria and kitchen at WG Pearson Elementary School, ingredients are delivered, prepared, counted, assembled into coolers, and labeled with the summer meals site name. School nutrition employees who staff the cafeterias when school is in session are hired for the summer to continue preparing food for the summer meals program.

Keaton explores a new shipment of summer meals snacks, including Keebler graham crackers, Cheez-Its and Frito Lay chips.

“It’s probably about a 1 to 1 ratio of summer meals sites to employees,” Keaton said. “And, if the site is based out of a school cafeteria, we also provide them with servers.”

Eight employees who work as bus drivers during the school year deliver breakfast to the summer meals sites in the morning, pick up the leftover food, and then make a second round of deliveries for lunch in the afternoon.

The driver for this table will deliver lunches to eight different summer meals sites, including Lakewood Elementary, DHA Cornwallis Road Learning Center, and Bull City Sport and Fitness.

The entree on the day Keaton gave the tour was a turkey sandwich on a whole grain roll. After these were packaged up and are ready for send-off, the cafeteria workers began preparing pizza dough for tomorrow’s meal.

Keaton emphasized that he tries to offer foods that children enjoy, within the nutritional standards and budget. Popular items include whole grain Rice Krispie Treats, unsweetened applesauce, Dole Pears and NutriGrain bars.

This Zee Zees applesauce cup is just one of many brand name items that Durham Public Schools Child Nutrition purchases to serve with summer meals.

Most of the summer meals sites run by the Durham Public Schools serve both breakfast and lunch at no-cost to students under 18 years old. To find your closest summer meals site, use this resource.

Analisa Sorrells

Analisa Sorrells is a Master in Public Policy candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School and previously worked as chief of staff and associate director of policy for EducationNC.