Lunchlady refuses to let kids go hungry in summer

Brenda Watford delivers free meals
Brenda Watford of Thomasville, N.C. hands out a free meal to a child.
CBS

For a lot of kids in our country, summertime means hunger. That's because 32 million kids are in school lunch programs for poor students and most of those programs close for summer vacation. CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts found a woman in Thomasville, N.C. who simply refused to let the children in her town go hungry.

Every summer weekday, Brenda Watford and her team take free meals to 1,500 children in need in Thomasville, N.C.

No one knows the need better than Watford. She runs the school cafeterias where more than 88 percent of the children receive free or reduced-priced meals during the school year. When school's out, and without Watford, many would go hungry.

"Knowing that these kids are getting something into their tummies everyday," said Watford, " just knowing we're there for them, that's why we're doing this."

"They know you're coming?" asked Pitts.

"They wait on us everyday. It doesn't matter if I'm 5 minutes early or 10 minutes late. They're here waiting on us."

Xavier Henry and Jason Anderson are two kids benefiting from the free meals.

"How much does it mean to you to have a free lunch every day?" asked Pitts to one of the kids.

"It feels awesome," said Anderson.

"You guys walk over here? So you know what time the van comes?"

"12 o'clock," Anderson responded.

"You guys come every day? Why is that?"

"You have healthy food," said Henry, "and plus we don't to like have to waste food at home and all that."

"Because we can save some food for our parents and just come down here," said Anderson.

Emily Jollie's kids also help save food and money. She used to work the third shift as a motel receptionist but left that job to go to school in the hope of making a better life for her family as a medical technician. She has four kids -- Cameron, Frederick, Jonathan and Madison.

"How important is Ms. Brenda to you guys?" asked Pitts.

"Very important," said Jollie, "because they look forward to coming down here every day."

Thomasville was once the furniture capital of America. But after plant closings -- and thousands of jobs sent to China and South America -- the county's unemployment rate has grown to 10.8 percent.

That's reason enough for Brenda Watford's mission. For a lot of people in Thomasville -- including her -- hard times go back generations.

"My mom was 6 and there's six other brothers and sisters," Watford said, "and she's standing on a chair and she's boiling water to pour dirt in to have dirt soup. I can't imagine anybody having to live like that. So I can't stand the thought of anyone being hungry."

"If you could go to Washington and talk to Congress and talk to President Obama, what would you say?" asked Pitts.

"I would ask him to please let every child in America eat free breakfast and free lunch every day."

But for most of the 20 million children in America who qualify for free and reduced lunch, there is no Brenda Watford and there is no one delivering a nutritious meal. They will spend this summer like summer's past -- in need of help that will not come.