Writer Launches Campaign To Pay Off Student Lunch Debt Nationwide

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With one little tweet she sent out into the world back in December, New York based writer Ashley C. Ford started a nationwide movement to erase the lunch debt of grade school kids across the country.

On December 6, Ford sent out a simple message to her 66,000 Twitter followers that read: “A cool thing you can do today is try to find out which of your local schools have kids with overdue lunch accounts and pay them off.”

But Ford never could have predicted the kind of response her tweet received. In less than two months since her rather innocent statement, thousands of dollars have been raised in communities from coast to coast to help eliminate student lunch debt.

Most schools allow students from low-income families to receive a reduced price for school lunches. But some still struggle to cover the cost, allowing debt to pile up to the point that schools only offer an alternative lunch consisting of a simple sandwich a carton of milk.

A survey from last year indicates that roughly 75% of school meal programs have unpaid student lunch debt. Erasing even part of that debt provides relief to low-income families, as well as taxpayers, who ultimately have to cover the cost. It also helps to ensure students can eat a decent lunch at school.

“It really hit home for me,” said Kristina Arwood, who helped raise $20,000 to pay off lunch debts for her community in Indiana. “I grew up on free and reduced-price lunches, but even that 40 cents was hard to get together with four kids. There were times I wouldn’t eat because I didn’t have money and didn’t want to be labeled as the poor kid.”

The movement is not going eliminate student lunch debt nationwide, but it has put a dent in it and brought nationwide attention to one of the problems affecting schools all over the country. For those who want to contribute, there are a number of GoFundMe pages dedicated to eliminating student lunch debt.

More than anything, Ford just wanted to motivate people to do something small but significant to help out in their own backyard.

“I sincerely just wanted to think of something really easy that people could do to make a difference locally,” Ford said. “It was just one idea; another school might need help with uniforms or tutoring. The point was to do something that helps people in your community.”