• Sat, Feb 8 - 5:00 pm ET

Anonymous Mom: I Challenge You All To Become ‘Lunch Angels’

143382396Sometimes I get the most amazing Anonymous Mom submissions that aren’t a true confession or a deep dark secret. Sometimes they are just amazingly awesome ideas the writer wants to share with the Mommyish community, and such is the case with the following. You may remember how Maria wrote about this awful school In Utah and how they disposed of the lunches of kids that had overdue lunch accounts. 

Our reader saw a recent article on Today.com about a man who decided to forgo buying something for himself to pay off some kid’s overdue accounts so they wouldn’t go hungry, and she was inspired to do the same. After reading about this, I hope you will be as inspired as I am, and as our Anonymous Mom is. I love this whole movement so much. 

As a tutor and mentor at Valley Oaks Elementary School in Houston for over 10 years, Kenny Thompson has taken pride in helping out kids. So on Monday, when he found out that over 60 students at his school were eating cold sandwiches for lunch because of overdue funds on their accounts, he decided to pay off the negative balance. All $465 of it.

 

Amazing, right? And all I could think was “Wow.” So simple. So basic. So brilliant. So now what? Because I’d like to do the same thing. Except I don’t have an extra $500 laying around. But I do have $50. Or $20. Or $10. Because I was going to buy organic fruit snacks, until this guy made me remember that the kid sitting next to my kid has no fruit at lunch so minus five bucks. I was going to buy a mocha frappe whatever because it’s Friday and I earned it, until this guy reminded me that the kid at the bus stop didn’t have milk at lunch so minus five bucks. I was going to buy handmade artisan sourdough bread, until this guy made me realize that the kid standing outside the school library is getting handed a cold sandwich and a side of shame because the payment on his lunch account is past due and another minus five bucks.

So there it is. 15 dollars without really trying that hard. And today, when I pick up my kid from school, I’ll go a little earlier. And I’ll stop in the office and pay that money into some kid’s account. I don’t care which kid. I don’t care why his account is past due. It doesn’t matter why his parent or guardian didn’t pay it. I don’t care who they are or what their story is. I care that a child at my kid’s school, a child of my community, is hungry. She is hungry and I can fix it, without really trying that hard.

I challenge you to do the same. To not try that hard. But to do something. To figure out what you can give. And then try a little harder, and give a little more. And today, when you pick up your kid from school, go a little earlier and pay that money into some kid’s account. You don’t have to pay for everyone. I don’t have to pay for everyone. But if we each help someone, then we can fix it for everyone. Because kids shouldn’t go hungry.

(Image: getty images)

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  • Kay_Sue

    This is amazing.

    We used to have “layaway angels’. One year, someone came in and paid off every single overdue layaway that was getting ready to be restocked. Another, we had someone come in with $5,000 to put towards overdue accounts. Each time, we literally had folks in tears when they heard their layaway was paid off.

    Anyway, my point is this: Not only do efforts like this this touch the person that you’re helping directly, but they are really uplifting to many different people that witness it. It’s always a nice reminder that, no matter how much shitty stuff is shoved in our faces each day, there are still good and compassionate people out there.

    Great idea.

  • Bethany Ramos

    I love this!!!! I privately donate to charities, but even more, it gives me the fuzzies to do small things for other people in real life. I have paid for people in the grocery line – and I feel really weird typing this right now – but the only issue was that it seemed to make people uncomfortable. Anonymous is the way to go!

  • AnastasiaMcNally

    This is so lovely!

  • Momma425

    Thank you so much for posting this.
    My grandma died one year ago today, and honestly, I woke up in a shit mood with a chip on my shoulder until I read this.
    Grandma volunteered at an elementary school cafeteria for over 10 years and THIS was her.

    Thank you so much for the reminder Anon mom, it inspired me today so much more than you could ever know. :)

    • Bethany Ramos

      Sorry for your loss. Must be a rough day. :(

  • AP

    I think this is a lovely sentiment, but the money could go to better use if it was directed towards a charity that vets the recipients for need. Sadly, there are plenty of people who can afford to pay for things, but choose not to in order to get free stuff.

    • Jem

      You live in a sad world if you think people are skipping paying for their kids lunches even though they can easily afford to. For what reason? To thumb their nose at the establishment or something? to keep the money for themselves? Do you think people are THAT selfish? If you don’t want to donate, don’t. I hate when people will only donate with a huge side of judgement.

    • AP

      There are plenty of people who are thieves. It’s sad, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes. People who can afford things, but opt to get/take them from others instead. We recently had an incident at work where parents who often come in bragging about the material largess they lavish on their children ended up stealing, collectively, about $800 in program fees. It’s one of many I’ve seen over the years.

      I really don’t have a problem with feeding hungry children and I’d happily pay for kids who really need food and are hungry (or even ones who just had an off day and plain forgot.) But a parent who’s putting their kid in such a bind deserves a CPS investigation, not charity.

    • the_ether

      the point of this is not ‘prove you deserve my kindness.’ It is ‘hey, here is a nice thing I am doing because it is nice.’ I’m not going to stop being altruistic just because it may sometimes be taken advantage of. What a shitty, cynical way to live.

    • whiteroses

      And it’s entirely possible that they’re genuinely poor yet still want their kids to get an education- which may be a privilege in this country but is still one that every kid deserves.

    • Roberta

      People aren’t giving charity to the parents. They are giving charity to the kids for having either parents in poor financial circumstances, or shitty parents.

    • Jem

      I hope you hand out fliers to them on what “material largess” they are and aren’t allowed to have in order to be poor and deserving enough in your eyes.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      You are right. When the kids get the lunch money to buy nuggets and milk they turn around and spend it on hookers and blow :( damn third graders

    • KarenMS

      I’m sorry but there literally is no better use of money than feeding hungry kids. If their parents have the money and refuse to spend it on food for their kids, then these children need it even more.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      Right ? I’m all like ” wait… You wanna punish the kids for having shitty parents?”

    • meteor_echo

      Aside from maybe educating the poor, helping abused women to get shelters and first necessity items, donating to nonprofit animal shelters etc.
      I digress.

    • KarenMS

      You know what, the point wasn’t to pit charities against each other in some worthiness competition. But to say that there are better uses of your money than feeding hungry kids was silly, as its a pretty great thing to do.

    • whiteroses

      I figure everyone has their own ideas of what’s worthy. Personally, I’d like to think that all charities need our time and attention.

    • meteor_echo

      Pretty much :)

    • ChickenKira

      So there are lots of parents who can pay for lunch for their kids, but don’t so their kids can get free lunch, which isn’t actually ‘lunch’, and in some cases (like the case in Utah) is a piece of fruit and milk?
      So if the parent is an ass that makes it okay for the child to face the consequences of that and not be fed a decent meal?

      Sorry, but I’m not a fan of the whole kids paying for the parent’s crime attitude.

    • SMH

      WHAT?! I can’t even process this comment…..WHAT!?! Seriously. You are delusional.

    • Maria Guido

      No.

    • whiteroses

      What would our kids spend all that money on? 1/18th of a pony spleen? Half a comic book? 2 packs of gum?
      Or are Lexuses suddenly hot among the third grade set?
      Here’s hoping you’re never in a position where you require someone else’s help.

    • Rachel Sea

      I get where you are coming from, because I know people are abusing the intent of Layaway Angels by going and putting lots of stuff they can afford on layaway just in case someone decides to go buy it for them.

      But with school lunches, if a parent lets the kid’s balance stay negative because the school won’t enforce payment, so their kid can get a free (if crappy) meal, the the school is in the hole. If someone pays off their balance, then the kid gets the benefit of a better meal (which they probably need if their parents are such shits), and the school can spend money on education.

    • Holly

      Yeah, I guess the kindergarten teacher who I work with and I shouldn’t stock a cabinet in our classroom so the kids who are hungry and without snacks don’t take advantage of all the free food.

    • Katherine Handcock

      I understand what you’re getting at here — between my husband’s work as a minister and my own work at a retail store (relating to education) that offered special arrangements for people in financial need, we’ve seen the best and the worst. The truth is that there are far more of the best — the folks who are struggling, but working their hardest, and just need a helping hand. But the worst can REALLY sour you if you’re not careful.

      However, I would agree with the others who commented that the kids don’t deserve to suffer for the awfulness of their parents. I’ll admit that my attitude would differ depending on what the cold lunch option is – if it’s a real lunch that leaves them full, heck, I eat a cold lunch daily, so I don’t see it as such a big deal. But if it’s not enough, and leaves them hungry, that’s a totally different matter in my eyes.

      If you would like to do something like this, but are concerned that the money go to someone deserving, I guarantee you that the school administration probably knows exactly who is most in need. Give it to the correct person and say, “Please put this on the lunch account of the person who needs it most.” Chances are very good it will go where it should.

    • footnotegirl

      You know what? NO CHILD can afford to pay for things. I don’t bloody well care what reasons their parents have for not paying, legit or not, the kid should be fed.

  • Gangle

    I think something is lost in translation for me.. So do all/most American schools have a daily canteen? In Oz, primary schools (yrs 1-7) have a school canteen, but it is usually only open one day a week, and from what I remember orders along with the money have to be placed before that day. All other days, children are to bring packed lunches. So does a school canteen in America open every school day? How does the system work?

    • Kheldarson

      We call the cafeterias and/or lunchrooms mostly. And yes, they run everyday for breakfast and lunch. You’re supposed to pay ahead or at the register (so if you have an account you get a card or have your name on a list or something. Schools vary in method). So, for example, when I was in high school, I’d pack most days, but if I saw something I’d like coming up on the menu, I’d bring money in. My mom now just pays into an account for my brothers at their high school, so they never pack.

      On top of all that, some students have their accounts subsidized by the government, making their meals cheaper or free.

    • Gangle

      Oh, ok cool. Makes the article make more sense! Thanks!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      Irish here.
      We used to have a SMARTCARD system, it was like a kid’s credit card with your school ID number and photo on it and you topped it up with coins.
      They also had an emergency button on the topup machine, to pop an extra €5 onto the card if you realised you didn’t have enough for lunch.

      There was also a collection box in a secluded corner and if you had a spare €2 or a handful of change, you could throw it in and if anyone genuinely needed some TopUp cash, they could go to the Brother (lovely young friendly chap) and just ask. They’d top up the card for you and all they’d ask in return that you not be afraid to say when you needed it and if they knew a friend who was struggling, to tell them too.

    • Rachel Sea

      It varies, some schools serve full meals twice a day, some do it not at all, lots are somewhere in the middle. Most states have mandates for low-income kids to get two free meals a day, but those meals can be provided in a lot of different ways.

    • Gangle

      cool, thanks for the info.

    • sparklesmcgee

      This is lost in translation for me too (another Antipodean here). I don’t get how a cold sandwich means kids are going hungry? At schools here prob 95% of packed lunches consist of a sandwich. My kids often have sandwiches for lunch an so do I! Why is this ‘going hungry’? I don’t get it.

    • Gangle

      yeah, I was wondering about that too. I lived on cold sandwiches, fruit and a water bottle at school and I never felt that I was slumming it – that is just a cut lunch! Having hot food at school, especially something like chicken nuggets or whatever from the tuckshop was a treat. I think it would be great if schools provided free lunches for disadvantaged kids, and I would have thought that some fresh sandwiches with fruit would have been pretty decent. That is what I eat for lunch now…

    • sparklesmcgee

      Yes! Vegemite sandwich (sometimes with peanuts in it) and an apple. Sometimes a yoghurt or mini chippies. Pie or fish and chips from the tuck shop on Friday. Lunch done! Same as all my friends. Of course I do also remember feeling starving when I got home from school and eating cheese in toast or buttered Weetbix (yes I’m a Kiwi) for afternoon tea. But afternoon snacks are normal right? Or was I going hungry am didn’t know it?!

    • Gangle

      lol, we have a Weetbix thing here too. Except, in the jingle on the ad we were ‘Aussie kids are weetbix kids’, not ‘Kiwi kids are weetbix kids’ lol. But we were the same. Vegemite sandwich (although no peanuts? What black magic is this??) and an orange or banana or something. And yeah, that was the whole point of afternoon snacks! honey on Weetbix and a glass of milk and your good to go!

    • sparklesmcgee

      Maybe my mum invented it. Raw peanuts (not roasted or salted) just shoved on top of the vegemite. I loved it!

    • Gangle

      I have never ever heard of that! Sounds strange… but now I think I need to try it.

  • AmazingAsh

    Another idea: see if there’s a weekend backpack program at your school!! Lots of kids go hungry on the weekends (or, at least, here they do). A group at the school gives kids who need them a backpack full of snacks/food- ramen, fruit snacks, etc. for the weekend and the kids bring it back on Monday to be refilled on Friday. I didn’t know so many kids didn’t have much to eat on the weekends, but the need for this program was staggering.

  • Maria Guido

    This is such a great idea.

  • Mary

    I have heard of this in my community as well (not letting a kid eat because of their overdue account). We were surprised this year when our school district announced that at least for this school year, all kids will be fed for free, no matter their parents financial status.

  • arrow2010

    Why all this emphasis on fruit snacks? Kids need to eat their vegetables, and that word was not mentioned a single time in this article. Kids need to learn the joys of broccoli, artisinal lettuce, kale, spinach.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    Something so simple!
    This really cheered me up today.
    No child should EVER have to go hungry!

  • evilstepmom

    I’m pretty sure I already do this, but mainly because my SD is AMAZING! Yes, I may have to put money in her lunch account more often, but I know that she won’t let her friends go hungry!

  • Robotic Arms Dealer

    You’ve inspired me Eve. I’m gonna offer children free candy

  • Jraw309

    I am actually in the process of setting up an online program where anyone can donate money which is used to help kids pay for their lunch if they are negative. I’m hoping it will be successful and any school can join the website and people can add money however