DUNCAN — For the last 10 years, children in Duncan have gone to Woodrow Wilson Elementary School to get a hot, free lunch.

It’s the only place in town where some children from low-income families can get one, according to Cindy Williams, the manager for all elementary school cafeterias in Duncan.

“One True Light also gives out meals, but to my knowledge, we’re the only hot food option,” Williams said.

For the last two years, the summer feeding program has been a drive-through-only service, due to restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of last week, the program is back to feeding kids in person inside the Woodrow Wilson cafeteria.

The return to in-person service is big benefit to the children who rely on the meal service, especially those who have to travel across town to get to Woodrow Wilson.

Many of those kids are brought in by Pamela Johnson, a Duncan Public Schools employee who has been bringing children from the west side of Duncan to Woodrow, on the east side, since she started working there eight years ago.

“I usually bring about five or six kids here,” Johnson said. “They’re mostly from around 12th Street.”

For a school to qualify to provide food in the summer, the school must meet certain federal requirements, most notably showing a need for free food service in the area typically served by the school.

Three schools in the Duncan Public School district qualify for the program: Mark Twain, Woodrow Wilson and Emerson elementary schools. However, only one of those schools, Woodrow Wilson, has a fully functional kitchen, making it the hub for the program in Duncan.

Food service workers in the district volunteer to run the program in the summer. Williams, who volunteered for the program when she first started working for Duncan Public Schools, still serves lunches on the line for the program every year.

“I absolutely like to make sure no one is hungry in the summer,” Williams said.

Summer food service starts at 11 a.m. every weekday. While breakfast service was provided in the early years of the program, it was canceled due to lack of available staff.

Johnson said that the service is very important to the Duncan community.

“It’s amazing,” Johnson said. “Some of these kids, they eat lunch here, and they may not eat dinner, but they at least get a meal here.”

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