Warwick not alone in tackling student lunch debt
Church pays off lunch debt for entire school district, more than 200 students get better meals
More than 200 students will now have access to more substantial lunches in the Royse City Independent School District in Texas, after the congregation of the Royse City First United Methodist Church paid off thousands of dollars in lunch debt that had prevented them from getting access to hot meals. Everson explained that his 200-member church has a tradition of donating their Christmas Eve offerings to charity. In 2017, the church split the offerings between a nonprofit and a nearby elementary school to help students get out of lunch debt. According to Everson, when a student in the district is $25 or more past due in lunch payments, that student no longer gets a hot meal from the school. They will still however receive a turkey or ham sandwich, a piece of fruit and milk.
Adi Bryant, Royse City ISD’s chief communications officer also told the network that 40 percent of the district’s approximately 6,000 students receive free or reduced price lunches as part of the National School Lunch Program. Recognizing the difficulties some families have in securing lunch for their children, Everson said he approached his church in 2018 and asked if they could help the entire school district in 2018 and they agreed. The church raised more than $10,000 for the cause and gave the money to the school district last near Christmas. The donation paid off debts for students who were $20 or more behind in payments that represented 226 families totaling around $6,000. The remainder of the donation will go toward assisting other students in the future.
She further explained that she believes the church’s donation has taken a bit of burden off the families who were in debt.
School lunch debt is skyrocketing. But little is known about its real cost
We know school lunch debt is squeezing American families and schools. From the National School Lunch Program, nearly 100,000 schools and education institutions provide lunch to 30 million students a day. School lunch costs for students vary by state and district, but on average, a single meal costs students $2.48 at the elementary-school level and $2.74 at the high-school level. In the contiguous 48 states the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers the federal school lunch program, reimburses schools. We noted that school lunch debt has risen steeply in a few.
Schools now grapple with another issue: Median lunch debts have risen to $2,500 per school, up from $2,000 in 2016 and 2014, according to a bi-annual School Nutrition Association survey. The amount of unpaid student meal debt is also directly correlated with school district size, the SNA report found. Currently, children whose families participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are automatically eligible for free school lunch. While it’s true that their parents can still file applications for free or reduced-price school lunch for their children, Pratt-Heavner tells me that the spectre of more restrictive SNAP policies are already having a chilling effect on access. Most people agree that philanthropy alone isn’t a sustainable solution to the school lunch debt problem.
Currently, there’s only one way that schools have been able to wipe out student lunch debt entirely: charity. The United States Department of Agriculture, which runs the national school program, is best positioned to collect and release data on student lunch debt.
Erase Washington School Lunch Debt!
Hello everyone! We’ve already wiped out over $100K in lunch debt as a team through my other campaigns, but there is still more to do. This time, I’ve partnered with Stephen Medawar, another local dad, and we’re excited to a tackle a much bigger goal: let’s erase lunch debt for all of Washington State! Children depend on a nutritious lunch to help them through their school day. Although 44% of Washington State school district students are on free or reduced-price meals, many students who do not or cannot qualify for these lunches still cannot afford to pay for them.
A 2014 federal report found that 39% of districts nationwide hand out cheap alternative meals with no nutritional requirements, and up to 6% refuse to serve students with a lunch debt balance. Sadly, 76% of America’s school districts have kids with school lunch debt. Students who are hungry are unable to focus on their work, and they can easily give up hope for succeeding in school because they are embarrassed by their inability to pay for lunch. With this community’s help, we have already raised money for 5 Washington State public school districts. Our new goal is to pay off the school lunch debt for the entire state of Washington and to ease the burden on Washington State families.
Paying off the school lunch debt is one physical way that we can help provide hope for students to focus not on their disadvantages, but on their future. Personally, I used to look forward to school lunch each day, and I’m sure these children will feel the same way soon! Our friends at the World Impact Network will be withdrawing the money and dispersing it to the school districts.