In April, I was driving home and listening to my local NPR affiliate. They were playing an interview with New Mexico state Senator Michael Padilla, who introduced legislation to end lunch shaming in New Mexico. The story was incredibly sad. I was horrified that children were being told they couldn't have a hot meal, and in some cases, having their meal taken away from them and thrown in the trash. I shared the story and my concerns on facebook and my online community was equally saddened by our failure as a nation to provide quality lunches to students, no matter their family's financial circumstances.
We decided that something should be done, even if it was a small gesture, to help students cover the cost of their lunches. In May, my friends and I raised nearly $2,000 in 48 hours to pay off the lunch balances at three Prince William County elementary schools. It felt good to make a difference, but my friends were motivated to do more.
I have spoken with the Prince William County food service coordinators for the entire county-wide school system and learned that if a child's lunch balance exceeds $50 and isn't paid, they will be sent to collections. In Prince William County, presently there is a negative balance of $160,000 in accounts headed to collections this summer, with over $300,000 in total outstanding lunch accounts.
If the bills aren't paid in collections, the amount owed to food services for the unpaid lunches comes out of each individual school's general budget. This impacts the opportunities of all children attending each school.
My goal is to alleviate the pressure of being sent to collections for all families in Prince William County schools. If we are able to reach this amount, we will move forward to pay off all lunch acounts in the county.
Thank you for your generous support! I know this is a huge amount, but every
dollar will bring us closer to reducing the stigma and financial burden of a family struggling to provide for their child.