Past Due Lunch Debts Wiped Clean at Four Area Schools

June 12, 2019, 4:11 pm EST | Share:

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This Spring, the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project partnered with fellow non-profit organization I Heart Hungry Kids, as well as the Queen Street Hospitality Group and the Charleston Restaurant Foundation for “Catch Up on Lunch” – a fundraising effort to repay past due lunch debt for public school children in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley Counties. After raising more than $25,000, Catch Up on Lunch has paid off the entire past due lunch debt for all students at four schools:

Flowertown Elementary – Dorchester County – $8,230.93
Philip Simmons Elementary – Berkeley County – $5,017.40
CE Williams Middle School – Charleston County – $7,298.12
Stiles Point Elementary – Charleston County – $1,781.97

“It’s clear that many families are unable to keep up with the cost of school lunches. Schools are forced to choose between incurring the debt or feeding students. Since hungry students are unable to focus on their studies, most schools are choosing to give meals to students with past due balances,” explains Katie Dahlheim, founder of the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project. “There are inconsistencies between schools in how lunch debt is tackled – some schools take away activities for students whose parents owe a debt or send the debt to collections. Moving forward we want to focus our efforts on long-term solutions to this problem such as increased awareness for free lunch programs and assistance with federal applications for reduced lunches.”

Large past due lunch balances place a huge burden on our schools to shift budgets and take funds from staff development, learning materials, arts programs and other initiatives. It also places students at risk for lunch shaming, a practice in which students who have used up their school meal accounts are denied lunches, served cold or cheap food instead of a hot meal, or are sent home with stamps on their hands to remind their parents to settle their balances.

During the 2018-2019 school year, the Dorchester District 2, Berkeley County, and Charleston County School Districts had a combined total of about $600,000 in past due school lunch debt.

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