**Please note: The Bagged “Lunches” are not a Navajo/SUSD Program. This sits on the Federal Level and is probably in effect at your neighborhood school right now.**
The grace period is three days, which would average a negative balance of $8.60.
I spent the day at Navajo Elementary School as a #WatchDogDad. I won't go into the specifics of that, right now.
By far, my favorite thing a WatchDog does is spend the two hours of lunch in the cafeteria as each class is filtered in and out. It's a fun time with some great interactions and connections.
...but here is what I found: Sitting on top of an industrial cooler were a few dozen brown paper bags.
Every single student stands by this cooler as they wait in line for lunch, and the purpose of the bag is well-known.
As specific students came in they were handed the bag, told to get out of line, grab a milk and take a seat.
In each bag, was the following:
-Two slices of wheat bread with four slices of cheese. (No, there was not anything else on the "sandwich")
-a small red apple
-a small baggie with a few (4-5) baby carrots
-a small milk that they grabbed themselves
I was informed that the kids who received this [meal?] were kids who had negative balances on their lunch accounts. Some owed .89 cents. Others owed as much a $8.60 (the total cost of three meals in the grace period).
I took the opportunity to (try to) talk with each kid who had this as their lunch (I will use that term loosely) just to try to get a little story.
The stories I got were insane:
-Two girls, through tears, said that their parents/guardians were aware that they had a negative balance, and did not know if they would pay it or not.
-One boy knew his mom would pay the $2.80 balance soon...but was just mortified/embarrassed/shameful that this was his "scarlet-letter lunch" for the day. He quickly crumpled up his labeled paper-bag as soon as he sat down with his food.
-One girl told me that her mom knew about the balance and was going to try to take care of it. She also told me her mom is battling cancer and had been hospitalized for the last couple weeks. Dad wasn't in the picture, and her 21-year-old brother was living with her to help out.
-One kid, honestly, loved it! :) I told him I used to request Mustard/Mayo sandwiches when my mom made my lunch as a kid.
All in all...the cafeteria works were/are doing their jobs. But it broke me to see these kids denied something good to eat...for the scraps they received.
They felt shamed. Embarrassed. And most likely, hungry.
This will be their story until the bills are paid.
I talked with the Kitchen Manager, and she is getting me the total balance for these kids. But it's only a matter of time before they're back down to zero, then negative...and then back to their labeled paper bag lunch.
Something's got to give. So here is my attempt.
I've partnered with some other WatchDog Dad's and our hope is to pay off the balances of every kid who goes into the negative (ever)...and then give them some cushion room so they can have a hot meal.
Would you partner with us?
Maybe it means a financial donation.
*The total amount is just a number I made up - my hope/prayer is that we'll exceed it, and this "campaign" will be something that goes on indefinitely
Maybe it means sharing this post to your family and friends.
Maybe it's becoming more aware of the holes in your corner of the world and doing something similar...because my bet, is that there are kids in your neck of the woods who struggle with the same.
Maybe it's all three.
Regardless of what you feel called to do, thank you for reading. I'm not usually the guy to post things like this...but something inside me was not and is not content with this current situation. As young as they are, these kids have enough to worry about, as is...a meal shouldn't be one of them.
Take a look at the GoFundMe page and see what you feel led to do.
Thanks for partnering with us to make a difference in our corner of the world...
- Amber Pentecost
- Lisa Costello
- Robin Madison
- Vicki Bell
- Jacqueline Tancos
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