You Can Help Eliminate a Public School’s Lunch Debt

If you want to help eliminate one school’s lunch debt, click here and donate. (Heck, if this takes off, maybe we could tackle a few others in the district.)

If you’re like me, when you remember your days in public school, one of the first things you think of is lunch. I fondly remember those impossible-to-open cartons of chocolate milk and buying Fruit-by-the-Foot from the snack cart, but when I think about it, lunch meant a lot more than that. It was an escape from the drudgery of gym class or social studies, and a chance to trade jokes and talk with friends or simply stay the hell out of the way of the kids who were bullying me; in a larger respect, it was a midday respite from the perdition that was my formative years.

But for many kids, lunch can be its own trouble. Until 2014, many districts denied kids hot lunch if they were unable to pay—sometimes dumping it out in front of them. Thankfully, after a public outcry in 2014, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law that specified “that any reminders for payment…” couldn’t “demean or stigmatize any child participating in the school lunch program.”

But the new law didn’t stop school lunch debt from accruing. Many kids don’t qualify for free and reduced lunch, but that doesn’t make their families well off, and food debt can accrue in a hurry. And once it hits a red line, food debt is often sent to collections.

Consider Anoka-Hennepin, ISD-11, where I went to elementary school and junior high, and where my mother taught for more than 30 years. It’s one of the largest school districts in Minnesota, serving more than 38,000 students. Just one school—Coon Rapids Middle School—serves around 1170 students, and overall there is a whopping $3,000 in school lunch debt. That’s a lot of cash, and it’s no doubt a burden on families and students alike.

So let’s help! That’s a lot of cash, but on the Internet, there are quite a few of us. That’s why Indivisible North Metro has set up a crowd-funding campaign to cover that debt. It’s a laudable campaign, and who knows, if we knock out one school’s debt, and this thing gets legs, why not a few more? Or the district?

Photo via: U.S. Air Force; Staff Sgt. Sarayuth Pinthong