Local student pays off school lunch debt
A Pennsylvania school district that warned parents behind on their lunch bills that their children could end up in foster care, and then rejected a businessman’s offer to pay the overdue charges, is apologizing and says it wants to accept the donation after all. The board also said that it would take a donation from Todd Carmichael, chief executive of Philadelphia-based La Colombe Coffee, to pay off the $22,000 in overdue bills, and that it would funnel the money through the district’s nonprofit foundation. Michael Plaksin, president of the Wyoming Valley West Educational Foundation, said the decision to take the donation was made during discussions he had with members of the school board. The foundation is independent of the board, he said, although they work closely together. Luzerne County child welfare authorities protested, saying they never remove children from homes over unpaid bills.
Carmichael, the donor, said his offer to pay the bills was rejected by school board President Joseph Mazur during a phone conversation on Monday. Mazur, who signed the apology letter, has not responded to several messages. State Rep. Aaron Kaufer, who attended district schools and represents the Wyoming Valley West area in the Legislature, said that when he could not get a district official on the phone Wednesday, he went there in person, and that after a long meeting officials told him the district would accept the money, funneled through the foundation. A spokesman for Carmichael, Aren Platt, said that the district’s plan was cause for optimism, but that Carmichael wants all the parents who received the letters to be contacted and told the debt has been paid off.
School officials have said they considered serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to students with overdue accounts but got legal advice warning against it. For the coming five school years, Wyoming Valley West has funding to provide free breakfasts and lunches for all students, regardless of income.
Local school districts struggling to keep up with unpaid school lunch debt
VANCOUVER, WA – Local school districts are struggling to keep up with growing mountains of debt from unpaid school lunches. Going into this school year, the Evergreen Public Schools district had accrued a debt load of $76,000. Jennifer Misfeldt, the district’s Director of Nutrition Services, said staff has been working to communicate with parents through phone calls and emails, but haven’t had much luck getting responses. The debt is a tricky issue for the district, because it has actively been trying to shield students from being shamed when asking for a meal. The district made that policy change a couple years ago.
The Washington legislature passed a law barring districts from communicating outstanding debt with students. As for Evergreen, more than $60,000 of the $76,000 debt is from students that don’t qualify for free and reduced school lunches. The district has had offers from the community to help. Norman Newkirk and his wife, who own Island Family Dental, have donated $10,000 each of the past two years to help Evergreen pay down some of the debt. Even with donations like theirs, the district’s debt continues to grow.
According to the district, parents who owe less than $10 account for 70 percent of the outstanding lunch debt.
It started with a Facebook post by a Jupiter, Florida woman who wanted to spread awareness for children accruing debt in their school lunchrooms, just so they could eat. Her post made the rounds online and this week, a complete stranger stepped in to make a big difference. Vyas-Knight said there were hundreds of kids in her county of Palm Beach who could not afford to pay for lunch, resulting in thousands owed by more than 400 students to their school lunchrooms. Despite dozens of pledges for help on Vyas-Knight’s Facebook post, Levy the situation called for quicker action. He made a donation to clear lunch debts at Jupiter-area schools, totaling nearly $1,000.
Levy also met with school officials and lunchroom employees to discuss the challenges they face. Levy said he hopes others in Palm Beach County will pitch in, too. With more than $50,000 in unpaid school lunch debt across the district, they’ll need as much help as they can get. Vyas-Knight is moved by Levy’s kindness. She told WPTV she will continue to spread the word about school lunch debts.
Vyas-Knight says teachers are already telling her how Levy’s generosity was directly impacting the children.
Anonymous donor shares why he covered lunch debt for a Huntington Beach school district – Orange County Register
He said he wanted one less obstacle in the bumpy path to education children too often must navigate. 50 to eliminate the debt Ocean View School District students had on the books from getting lunch. The philanthropist certainly didn’t open his wallet for a public pat on the back. Although he agreed to an interview, the donor insists on anonymity. Without naming him, the district heralded his good deed this week in an announcement. One of the oldest in Orange County, the district oversees 16 schools.
Half receive Title I assistance – extra government funding provided schools with a high percentage of children from low-income households. The donor said he was fortunate to enjoy a comfortable childhood with educated parents who stressed the importance of school. Several of his family members are teachers, and he has worked in education as well, he said. He got the idea to pay off the debt after reading about a Florida man who, two weeks before, erased a local school district’s outstanding lunch deficit of $944.34. In the big picture, he acknowledged, picking up the lunch tab won’t solve every problem.