“Lunch shaming” is the terrible practice of humiliating children who can’t afford a hot school lunch. There are stories of teachers and cafeteria workers being required to take away hot lunches from students, and even children getting “I owe lunch money” stamped on their arms. After hearing some of these heartbreaking tales, a Seattle-area dad decided to do something about it.
Jeffery Lew, a father of three, heard about lunch shaming through local and national media. “Just from hearing that news coverage it kind of broke my heart as a father,” Lew told ABC News. “I can’t imagine having one of my children coming home from school saying, ‘Hey, I was denied lunch because I owed money.'” Lew created a GoFundMe to pay off the $97.10 in student lunch debt that was owed as his son’s elementary school, but quickly realized he could do so much more than that.
In only five days, Lew’s GoFundMe raised over $23,000, enough to cover the lunch debt for every school in the district.
Lew understands how hard it is to be a parent. “I think parents are so busy in their work life and different things where they forget to send their children to school with lunch money…there could be parents that are in a tough financial situation that we don’t know about and can’t afford it,” Lew said to ABC. “We just don’t know what these kids or families are going through. No kid should go hungry, regardless if they have money or not.”
According to ABC News, the Seattle school district does offer free or reduced-cost lunches to qualifying students. However, the application has to be submitted before the start of a new school year. The district also doesn’t deny students an entire lunch if a student does not have money. — the cafeteria provides fruit and milk in those instances.
The Seattle Public School District issued a statement saying how grateful they are for the community’s generosity. “The money recently raised by families will be used to pay down school lunch debt. Any money left over will be used to pay future school lunch debt. Thank you to our great families for helping us ensure success for all our students.”
Way to go, Seattle!
(Image: GoFundMe / Erase Seattle School Lunch Debt!)