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Father's fundraiser to pay off school lunch bills in Seattle

Unpaid school-lunch bills can leave students shortchanged in the cafeteria line, but one father is trying to guarantee hot meals for every child in the district. (Photo: KOMO Photo)

SEATTLE - Unpaid school-lunch bills can leave students shortchanged in the cafeteria line, but one father is trying to guarantee hot meals for every child in the district.

Jeffery Lew has launched a gofundme campaign to pay off the school lunch debt for every family with a child in the Seattle Public Schools system. The effort started off with him just trying to cover the tab for his son’s entire elementary school, but quickly expanded districtwide.

“I've been recently inspired by the whole lunch shaming media coverage, what they call lunch shaming crisis,” Lew said.

Lunch shaming is where children are held publicly accountable for unpaid school-lunch bills. It's become a notorious practice in some states around the country.

The Seattle school district offers free and reduced-cost lunches to families who qualify. Those that don’t are expected to keep a minimum balance in their child’s school lunch account. A spokesperson said when students can't pay they are still fed, but it's not the full meal given to kids with money.

“They give you like fruit and milk but they might not give you like actual food, and fruit is not enough because apples are really small and just not enough for kids,” said Graciela Jones, a high school freshman.

Lew doesn’t want those students to feel stigmatized by not being able to purchase the hot meals everyone else is eating. He hopes to get enough donations through his gofundme account to cover $21,000 in outstanding school-lunch bills for families throughout the district.

“I feel like he's doing a really good thing because not a lot of people can eat and he's just being generous,” said Amani Johnson, a high school freshman.

Those interested in contributing can check Lew’s gofundme page.


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