Philando Castile's Mom Wipes Out $8,000 In Student School Lunch Debt
After outrage over district response to student lunch debt, Chobani’s founder stepped in
Chobani, headquartered in Norwich, has donated $47,650 toward the $77,000 lunch debt faced by Warwick Public Schools, which serves students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. On Sunday, the district had announced students who owed money on paid, free or reduced lunch accounts would be served sun butter and jelly sandwiches with the usual vegetables, fruit and milk until their balance was paid, beginning May 13. That policy was altered a few days later, after parents left scores of angry comments on the district’s post and national media outlets picked up the story. Chairwoman Karen Bachus said a school subcommittee recommended students get the lunch of their choice, regardless of their account balance. Bread matters: With Trump rollback, school lunch could get more white bread, less whole grains.
Chobani also pledged to donate cups and bottles of Chobani greek yogurt products to the surrounding Warwick community. All public schools in Rhode Island are required by state law to provide lunches to students, and 69% of the lunches served are free or offered at a reduced price. Bachus clarified that 72% of the district’s lunch debt is owed by students on paid plans, not free or reduced accounts, and that debt is incurred only when students select a la carte options such as pizza, fries, ice cream and other snacks. Parents are notified twice of the debt before a student’s a la carte access is denied, she added. The district says 1,653 students have an outstanding debt.
Chobani’s donation, the Warwick mayor’s office said Friday, will be applied to the debt of the district’s low-income students. This article originally appeared on Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: After outrage over district response to student lunch debt, Chobani’s founder stepped in.
Chobani Pays School Lunch Debts for Students
The office of Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon said it is coordinating with Chobani to accept nearly $50,000, the amount owed by low-income families with children in Warwick Public Schools. Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya tweeted Thursday that as a parent, the news broke his heart. Access to nutritious food should be a right, not a privilege, he said. Chobani was but one of the businesses and organizations that offered to donate money to the district, officials said. Warwick Public Schools had said it was owed $77,000 and couldn’t assume more debt, sparking a public backlash and upsetting the mayor, who asked the school committee to reconsider.
About 1,650 students owed money as of last Friday, and about 70% of those students are not enrolled in the program for free or reduced price lunches, according to the school committee. The mayor’s office is trying to plan an event to accept the donation formally, spokeswoman Courtney Marciano said, and there has been an outpouring of support from across the country. School leaders are working with attorneys on a way to accept donations to help settle lunch debt, after a local restaurant owner said the district twice turned down his offer to donate $4,000, school board Chairwoman Karen Bachus said. Leaders are trying to find a balance between being fiscally responsible and ensuring all students get a healthy, nutritious lunch, she said. Chobani, based in Norwich, New York, said the company is also looking to donate yogurt to the schools, a spokesman said.
Solomon and state Rep. Joseph Shekarchi, majority leader of the Rhode Island House, said they want to work with Chobani to bring attention to food insecurity among students nationally.
East Penn parents pitch in to help pay off Bethlehem Area’s meal debt
East Penn parents pitch in to help pay off Bethlehem Area’s meal debt – The Morning Call. Melissa Fillman’s children don’t attend school in the Bethlehem Area School District, but the East Penn mother and other parents are working to erase Bethlehem Area’s $154,000 meal debt. If the fundraiser is successful, Kindness is Magic will help raise money for other Bethlehem schools’ debt. Kindness is Magic will place donation boxes in Bethlehem schools to collect gently used and new shoes. Thomas Jefferson will receive the money because the school has a reasonable amount of debt that could be paid off, Gober said.
It’s easier to take the lunch debt school by school rather than finding a way to pay off the entire $154,000, Gober said. The group is made up of five officers and about 30 volunteers from the East Penn, Allentown, Salisbury and Parkland school districts, Fillman said. She and other parents feel compelled to help districts that aren’t as well off as East Penn and others are, she said. Daily lunch costs $2.65 for an elementary student and $2.85 at the secondary level in Bethlehem. District officials say they have tried everything to recoup the money – sending weekly notices to parents after five unpaid meals; providing information on how to apply for free and reduced lunch; even setting up reimbursement plans where families can pay as little as $5 a week.
Last month, the school board voted to contract with a collections agency, Transworld Systems Inc. of Bethlehem. Transworld will contact parents who owe $50 or more and have not tried to pay their debt.