This Dad Raised Enough Money To Pay Off An Entire School District's Lunch Debt

And he's not stopping there.

When Seattle father of three Jeffery Lew heard about the "lunch shaming" that was occurring in schools around the country, he decided to take action. 

Lunch shaming occurs when students accumulate debt for being unable to pay for their cafeteria meals. Some schools throw the food away, give the student a smaller meal such as fruit and milk (as is reportedly the case in Seattle), or stamp the student's arm to show they owe lunch money. Cafeteria workers have quit their jobs or been fired for objecting to these practices, and bills have been introduced in Congress to address the issue.

"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 page with the goal of first paying off the lunch debt for his child's school ($97.10), and then for the entire Seattle School District — over 90 schools. In a little over a week, the campaign has raised over $25,000. That's enough to erase the district's debt of $20,531.79, and then some. The district said in a statement that any leftover money would be used to pay off future debt.

Lew wrote on the campaign page, "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."

On his GoFundMe page, Lew cites a 2015-16 report showing that 36 percent of Seattle public school students receive free or reduced-price meals. The application must be submitted online before the start of each school year. 

"We just don't know what these kids or families are going through," Lew told ABC News. "No kid should go hungry regard[less] if they have money or not."

Fundraising like this is happening around the country. Earlier this year, a viral tweet from writer Ashley C. Ford encouraged people to raise thousands of dollars to pay off school lunch debt in several different states. Coupled with the new administration's recent changes to school nutrition standards championed by Michelle Obama, it's just as important as ever to ensure students from all walks of life have access to healthy meals during the school day.

As for Lew, he isn't stopping at just Seattle. According to HuffPost, he's created separate GoFundMe pages to cover the debts for the Tacoma and Renton school districts in Washington state — $20,800 and $18,000, respectively. "Maybe we can get the whole state paid off," he told the site. "That would be kind of cool to do."

Cover image via Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images


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