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Garage sales and GoFundMe campaigns are nice, but Colorado districts want a better fix for school lunch debt

Boulder Valley School District, for instance, has around $200,000 in lunch debt accrued over several years.

Simla Elementary School first graders McKenna Stanco, left, and Bella McCann eat lunch together in the Big Sandy School Monday, February 25, 2019. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

By Anne Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado

A Boulder mom raised more than $40,000 to pay off debt from school lunches that district students ate but couldn’t pay for, even garnering a hefty donation on the Rachael Ray Show.

A teacher at Denver’s McGlone Academy raised $525 this spring to help feed students at her school.

An Eastern Colorado woman organized a community garage sale, restaurant donations, and an online drive to raise $3,600 to cover lunch debt in the rural Bennett district.

In Colorado and the rest of the country, fundraisers to cover the cost of school meals are popping up as district officials struggle to balance their desire to feed hungry children with their responsibility to pay the food bills. The online fundraising site GoFundMe lists nearly 70 such meal debt campaigns, with names like “Phil-lunch-thropy,” “ and “Let the Kids Eat.”

Such efforts are often fueled by worries that children who can’t pay for lunch will be given a meager snack, cold sandwich, or have their hot lunch thrown out — practices known as lunch-shaming. Some school food service leaders, while grateful for community campaigns to cover the debt, don’t see fundraisers as a viable answer to what they say is a larger fundamental problem.

“The system is broken,” said Ann Cooper, food service director for Boulder Valley School District. “What we really need is universal meals.”

Read more at chalkbeat.org.