In light of COVID-19, North Carolina is sheltering in place and schools are closed. In Durham, Durham Public Schools (DPS) was forced to stop producing and distributing meals to children age 0-18 years while they were sheltering-in-place during the COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, restaurants were and still are reeling from the effects of COVID-19. From there, Durham FEAST was created (almost overnight). Durham FEAST provides complete meals, fresh produce and shelf-stable ingredients to children and adults experiencing food insecurity during COVID-19.
Since April 20, 2020, CCSA’s Meal Services’ Durham kitchen has been providing 200 breakfasts and 200 lunches each day to children in Durham. The meals are kid-friendly and kid-tested and made from nutritious and locally sourced products from places such as Farmer Foodshare. One of the lunch meals provided is our award-winning Fagioli Bowl, voted “Most Likely to Sell Out at School” at the Durham Bowls competition hosted by DPS in fall 2019. All meals are prepared and frozen to stay fresh for delivery; they are distributed at school pick-up locations in Durham or delivered directly to homes for families that cannot make it to pick-up locations.
As of June 5, we have provided approximately 10,000 meals to Durham families. As Durham FEAST continues for the summer through Durham Public School Foundation and Food Insight Group (FIG), CCSA and other participants will provide meals for contactless home delivery and for Durham Housing Authority. CCSA will deliver meals on Wednesdays to the Riverside High School collection site. We expect to produce 9,600 meals for Durham FEAST through June and July. The program will end on July 29, 2020.
CCSA’s Meal Services team, headed by Lisa Menna, has done a terrific job pivoting their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. One week they were serving more than 1,200 breakfasts, lunches and snacks each day out of three kitchens, and the next week they were serving 62 meals out of two kitchens. Two weeks later, they were serving 62 meals in individual containers (to reduce the number of times the food was handled before a child ate it) and preparing 200 breakfasts and 200 lunches in quart containers five days a week for Durham FEAST.
Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been additional challenges, including a shortage of certain foods and the subsequent need to change menus and substitute ingredients. Also, the meals served directly to children had to be either all hot or all cold to comply with food safety regulations. Most recently, food and supply delivery routes have been affected by protests around the state and orders are arriving hours or days after they were scheduled to arrive.
CCSA’s long-term partnership with Budget Courier Service has helped our Meal Services team continue to deliver meals to child care centers that remained open or reopened during the COVID-19 crisis. Chris Carroll of Budget Courier worked tirelessly to help facilitate the delivery of Durham FEAST meals to multiple delivery sites each week in April and May. With Budget Courier’s continued assistance, CCSA will be able to deliver 1,600 meals one day each week that will be utilized for home delivery through Durham FEAST, reaching families throughout Durham County until the end of July.
We are now serving 400 meals a day in child care centers and have moved back to our regular family-style serving system, which means children get a variety of hot and cold foods in their meals. Other centers are planning on reopening later this summer so that we will again be serving 1,200 meals a day.
School meals are a vital source of nutrition for so many children. CCSA is grateful for the combined efforts of Durham County, Durham Public Schools, Durham Public Schools Foundation, Food Insight Group and Chef Andrea Reusing along with The Durham Hotel for quickly organizing the talents of the vast variety of chefs in Durham to help their community and keep their employees working. We are able to do this important work in our community thanks to a grant from the Corporate Partnership for Nonprofits—COVID19 Fund, part of the Duke-Durham Fund and support from United Way of the Greater Triangle. Learn more about what we’re doing to help by watching this video.