Teacher raises more than $100,000 to feed needy students

Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 5:42 AM CST
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DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) - A North Carolina elementary school teacher raised more than $100,000 to buy groceries for her students and many others to take home over the holiday break.

Turquoise LeJeune Parker, a Lakewood Elementary School teacher, may be the happiest elf in Durham, North Carolina, as she raised more than $106,000 in her most successful fundraiser yet for needy students.

“Amazing, speechless. It leaves me speechless. I’ve cried a little bit today, cry a little bit every day,” Parker said.

Thanks to an ever-growing list of donors and community partners, Parker bought non-perishable groceries at Costco for more than 5,100 students from a dozen Durham Public School area schools whose families could go hungry over the holiday break.

“Two weeks is a long time to be out of school without lunch or breakfast at school. Three meals. Children eat a lot. Food is expensive,” Parker said.

For several days, Parker and volunteers bagged the groceries and sent them home two grade levels at a time. This year, there was even enough food to send bags home for school support staff, including bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

Of the 12 schools where students are getting bag loads of holiday groceries, 98% of them receive free or reduced lunch at school. For many, schools provide their only meals.

Food insecurity is a major concern in Durham, especially for low-income people of color. WTVD has been tracking it with an Our America Equity Report by ABC-owned stations. Nearly three-quarters of Black and Latino residents don’t have access to supermarkets within walking distance, 25% more than white residents.

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