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And hopes to go statewide with his efforts

Mike Pomranz
May 19, 2017

While politicians debate the controversial topic of what should happen when schoolchildren owe a lunch debt at school, a Seattle father of three has decided to take matters in his own hands, setting up GoFundMe campaigns to raise money to pay off students’ lunch debts in multiple cities in his state.

Jeffery Lew told the Huffington Post that he got the idea after seeing all the recent news stories about districts shaming kids who owed a balance at the cafeteria. In one specifically horrible example, Desert Cove Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona, was called out for literally stamping “LUNCH MONEY” on a student’s wrist because of his low balance. “Lunch shaming” (as it’s dubbed) has become such a major issue that, last month, New Mexico became the first state to officially ban the practice after reports that some schools made kids with unpaid accounts wear wristband as a remainder to pay or mop floors to earn their keep. “Seeing that, hearing about that, reading about that, it really just broke my heart,” said Lew, who went to public school in Seattle and currently has an 8-year-old attending the district as well. “I would hate for my son to experience something like that at lunch.”

Lew reached out to his alma mater and discovered the total student lunch debt across the Seattle Public Schools district was $20,531.79. Using the crowdfunding site GoFundMe, he launched a campaign with a $30,000 goal (with any extra money going to future lunch debts), and in just nine days, he’s already raised well over $25,000. That success has led him to post similar campaigns for the Renton School District (which is owed $18,000) and the Tacoma School District (with a debt of $20,841). His wife is a graduate of the former, his brother-in-law a graduate of the latter.

Though those campaigns are off to a slower start (though they’ve only be up for a couple days), he’s already thinking bigger. “Maybe we can get the whole state paid off,” he told HuffPo. “That would be kind of cool to do.” If you’d like to help, here are your links for Seattle, Renton and Tacoma. (Please note, when donating to GoFundMe, funds go to the organizer who is then responsible for distributing the money.)