DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A Durham teacher said with the help of donations from the community, she was able to buy $100,000 worth of groceries at Costco to help feed 5,000 students in Durham Public Schools through the holiday break.
On Wednesday afternoon, Turquoise Lejeune Parker, the teacher behind the “foodraiser,” was in the gym at Lakewood Elementary filling up paper bags with bread, mac & cheese, beans, and other groceries that she’ll be giving to all of the students at the school.
Parker said she and attorney T. Greg Doucette started collecting donations to purchase food for her students during the holidays back in 2015 when she was approached by a parent in need.
“This all started with one family, one family sent me a message in 2015,” Parker said. “This mom said we don’t have anything at all, I don’t have anything for my kids.”
That’s when Parker and her husband, Donald Parker, messaged everyone they knew and asked if they could help purchase or donate food for the 25 students in her class.
She said they were able to collect enough groceries so all her students could be fed through the holiday break.
Parker said they decided to do it again the following year, and they were able to feed even more children.
“We were able to feed the whole grade level, then two grade levels, then the whole school, and then three schools and it kept growing,” Parker said.
Parker said this year through the help of donations, they were able to raise more than $100,000 and feed all the students at 12 different schools in the district.
Parker refers to her students as her “professors,” and she said she thinks of them as her own children.
“That’s how I see every one of my professors, I can’t sleep, unless I know they’re OK,” Parker said.
Parker said most of the students at these schools are on free or reduced lunches and most are children of color.
“We owe this to everyone who is suffering from systemic oppression,” Parker said. “Our folks are struggling to provide the very basic need, food and water and a place to live, that’s ridiculous.”
For now, she said they are doing what they can to make sure all of the students at these schools are fed through Christmas.
Parker said this wouldn’t be possible without all the help from the community.
“It’s truly mind-blowing at how fast this grows,” Parker said. “I just want to make sure my babies are OK.”