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$232K in School Lunch Debt, These Heroes Are Altering the System to Prevent Lunch Shaming

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Many kids and school systems struggle to handle school lunch debt for kids who can’t pay. But many students and families around the country are stepping up.


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It is estimated more than 11 million children live in food-insecure homes. Food insecurity means there is not enough food at home for everyone to have enough food to support a healthy life. An estimated 22 million children rely on free or reduced lunch program which helps ensure children at least can eat nourishing meals during school.

Whether paying full price or reduced price for lunch, some families cannot afford to pay for student lunch. As debts accumulate, school lunch shaming can happen where a student is denied lunch, made to throw food away or have a stamp on their hand stating they owe lunch money.

The good news is many students and families across the country are stepping up to STOP school lunch shaming and helping the school and the families by paying off school lunch debt.

Kindness key chains

Second-grade student Keoni made kindness key chains to raise money to pay off student school lunch debt for this school. The key chains were customized to spell various words with colorful beads. He sold them for $5 apiece and was able to raise over $4,000 to pay the lunch debt for the whole school.

Keoni is continuing to make these key chains to raise funds for a local children’s hospital.

Lemonade stand

Twins Hannah and Heidi from North Carolina started raising money through their lemonade stand for a hospice center that took care of their grandfather then for toiletry products for a local homeless shelter.

Their mother received a letter in the mail, along with other parents in the school district, about the urgent need the school system had for paying off school lunch debt. The twins shifted their focus for making lemonade to raise money to help pay off student lunch debt and have raised thousands of dollars to help pay the debt.

Holiday hot cocoa stand

Five-year-old Katelynn started selling hot cocoa and holiday treats as a way to raise money so her friends at school “wouldn’t have rumbling tummies.” She was able to contribute $78 towards the $616.85 school lunch debt.

Crowdsourcing campaign

Fourteen-year-old Ben came up with a creative way to help his school pay off lunch debt: start a GoFundMe campaign. This campaign started after a school project students were asked to dig into a community issue. Ben decided to tackle school lunch shaming around the nation even though his school does not partake in shaming students.

Ben has raised about $8,000 and has a goal to raise the total amount needed for his school district’s lunch debt: $18,000.

Switching coffee for school lunch fee

Kathy Lacroix, a Boulder mother of two, was shocked to learn her kids’ school district had a school lunch debt of $232,000. Like some other districts, the Boulder Valley School District has a policy of not letting any child go hungry.

Kathy turned to Facebook to challenge others to swap what you normally pay for a coffee drink and donate it towards paying off school lunch debt. In just a day, Kathy raised $1,400 and a local grocery store decided to match whatever money is raised.

Whether it’s swapping coffee money or making lemonade, there are many ways you can help students and your school district pay lunch debt. If you know a student is going without, you could also contact the school to anonymously pay for another student’s lunch program or make a general contribution.