Tired of school workers shaming children at lunch, a Seattle dad has raised more than $23,000 to help kids in Washington pay for their school lunches.
“We hit the goal real quickly,” Lew told ABC News. “It feels amazing because it takes a village. I really credit the whole community coming together.”
More than 75% of school districts across America have students who count on their school to provide lunch at least some of the time. Often, their parents don’t make enough money to pay for school lunches.
Consequently, in some school districts, students have had their lunch taken away and replaced with a cold cheese sandwich.
This behavior, called “lunch shaming”, creates a social stigma for the students in question.
“Some kids can be cruel and make fun of classmates,” Lew said. He explained that when a school gives a child a cold cheese sandwich while other students have a hot lunch, it’s an open invitation for others to make fun of the child in question for not having enough money.
Lunch shaming has gained attention from around the nation after some incidents in states such as Alabama and Arizona. In those cases, students had their arms stamped with “I need lunch money.”
Lew further remarks on what students had to endure in order to obtain lunch. “Some students had to clean lunch tables to pay off their debt. No child should go hungry due to not having money.”
The Seattle father stated that it broke his heart, reading about how some students were getting their lunch trays full of food tossed in the garbage can in front of their classmates.
Lew’s broken heart spurred him towards starting a GoFundMe site to pay off the lunch debt.
“That just inspired me to act. It’s worth a shot,” he said. “I used to love school lunches growing up. Seeing kids that don’t have it, is just awful.”
And his initial goal was to pay off the $97 lunch debt at his own child’s school. However, after reaching that goal, Lew expanded his efforts.
Seattle Public Schools total lunch debt was $20,531.79. However, Lew surpassed that amount as a result of him speaking out about his fundraising goals. He has now raised over $27,000 and has launched two more fundraising campaigns to help even more students who hail from other districts.
Lew’s hope is to raise enough money to pay off the lunch debt in the Renton and Tacoma school districts in Washington. And his actions have inspired a friend and former coworker, Sarah Lenaburg, to start her own campaign. Lenaburg hopes help pay off the student lunch debt in the Everett School District, which is not far from Seattle.
“As a parent and graduate of the Seattle Public Schools, I am trying to help ease the burden of these families and make sure these children get to eat a nutritious meal each day at school,” Lew said.
“The response has been very positive and I am super proud of the community for coming together for a great cause,” he said. “We all did it together!”
New Mexico recently passed a law, banning lunch-shaming practices:
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