One Good Thing: Lunch debt paid in Grandville
SPS school lunch debt cleared with help from local residents, business
Molly McKinney’s effort to pay off student lunch debt in Springfield started with a message on a neighborhood app. A woman in her area asked if anyone knew of any agencies offering help to pay off her children’s $60 lunch debt, so McKinney took matters into her own hands. While she was there, she asked how many students also couldn’t pay their bills and found out people owed hundreds of dollars. She started a Facebook page with a PayPal account to pay off debt from around the district. Brittany Bilyeu, co-owner of local apparel, goods and accessories business Culture Flock, said she and her colleague Summer Trottier decided to pitch in when they heard about McKinney’s efforts. Evangel University:Student athletes provide new hoodie for each Weller student, pay off lunch debt. They gave more than $1,500 to students at four schools who had delinquent balances on their lunch accounts, potentially preventing them from getting extra items or a hot meal. McKinney’s effort is part of an area trend of charities, former students and student athletes paying off delinquent debts for school meals. In the 2017-18 school year, 75 percent of districts reported their program had unpaid student meal debt, totaling more than $10.9 million nationwide, according to the national School Nutrition Association. Inspired by athletes:Former Pipkin student pays off $1,100+ in lunch debt at middle school. Charitable donations were the No. 1 way those schools and students were able to pay down the balances, and trends showed districts are seeing an increase in the number of students who are not qualified for free or reduced lunches who can’t pay their bills. “There are consequences for having the lunch bill, and the kids pay for it, even though it has nothing to do with them,” she said.
Community Choice Credit Union pays off lunch debt for 4,045 Michigan students
A Farmington Hills credit union paid off $43,000 in lunch debt for 4,045 students in 20 school districts across the state this month. Community Choice Credit Union made the donations in July from the credit union’s community outreach fund earmarked for community events that were cancelled earlier this year. “This is likely going to be an extraordinary start to the school year after last year ended so abruptly,” said Jeremy Cybulski, community engagement manager at Community Choice. “On top of that, you have the added expenses of starting a school year, like purchasing school supplies, uniforms, or new clothes for growing kids. So, if we can remove the stress of also having to pay off a school lunch bill from last year, we’re happy to do it.” Carolyn Thomas, child nutrition consultant for the Macomb Intermediate School District, said Community Choice paid the balance for 184 children in her district. “I heard from several families after we told them that their negative balance had been cleared by this donation,” Thomas said. “They were so grateful. It was such a welcome message to be able to let them know that they didn’t have to worry anymore. Especially now, when more people have lost their jobs and they’re really looking to just meet their basic needs.” Debt was also settled for seniors at Southfield High School for the Arts & Technology, two elementary schools in the Warren Consolidated district and two schools in the Jackson County Intermediate School District. According to the national School Nutrition Association, unpaid meal debts have become a growing problem for schools. The 2019 Trends Report found 75% of responding districts report having unpaid student meal debt at the end of the 2017/18 school year.
Philando Castile’s Mother Donates Money To Wipe Out School Lunch Debt
Three years after the shooting death of Philando Castile, his legacy of helping others continues. His mother, Valerie Castile, has given $8,000 to a Minnesota high school to settle school lunch debts. The donation, given on behalf of the Philando Castile Relief Foundation, alleviated the lunch debt at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minn. Valerie Castile told NPR, “The kids shouldn’t have a debt hanging over their heads, and the parents shouldn’t either. I just believe that the schools should furnish free meals for our children.” Carlton Jenkins, superintendent of Robbinsdale-area schools, told NPR that Castile’s gift wiped out lunch debts for about a hundred students. Philando Castile was a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Minnesota when he was fatally shot by a police officer during a 2016 traffic stop. Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter were in the car with Castile. Philando Castile’s mother received a $2.995 million settlement from the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, and used it to start the Philando Castile Relief Foundation. Philando Castile frequently paid for the lunches of students who owed money or couldn’t afford them. Valerie Castile says her son cared for his school’s students in other ways as well. She says a former student, who was new to the school, remembers Castile introducing him to his first friends there. According to the School Nutrition Association, student lunch debt is rising. President Truman established the National School Lunch Program in 1946, which provides federal funding for public and nonprofit private schools to offer free or reduced-price lunch to kids whose families qualify.