Thanks to the community’s rallying support, students at Denver Public Schools will get to eat a full hot lunch every day, even if they can’t pay for it.
It all began when KidsGiving365, a Denver nonprofit, started a GoFundMe campaign this summer — with the goal of paying off the $13,910 lunch bill that Denver Public Schools (DPS) had accumulated when 3,200 low-income students couldn’t pay for lunch last school year. And they were successful, raising a total of $17,632 to pay off the bill and have a little bit left over to cover fees and put toward school supplies, clothing, and other needs of students living in the Denver Housing projects.
But the even better news? Where the DPS students who couldn’t afford lunch were previously given a sub-standard alternate meal (like graham crackers and milk, or a cold cheese sandwich), the school officials have now changed their policy, ensuring that every student will be given a hot lunch, regardless of whether or not they can pay for it. In addition to the more nutritious meal they’ll now receive, students will also benefit from the fact that they will no longer have to worry about being embarrassed, shamed, or bullied in the lunch room.
We will feed every kid, every day,” DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said. “We know hungry kids aren’t the best learners. … We are grateful to our community, our students, and our business partners for their support. We will be working with them and with federal officials to ensure that every child has the opportunity for breakfast and lunch every day.”
To pay off the lunch debt, 330 donors pitched in on the GoFundMe page with a variety of donation increments — as little as $5 and as much as $500 — showing that everyone’s generosity can move mountains when put together. Even students did their part, with one family setting up a lemonade stand to raise money for the cause.
DPS lunch prices are already the lowest in the metro area, their website states, with elementary school lunches costing $2 each. In addition, some DPS schools have budgeted in advance and set aside instructional funds to cover the cost of unpaid lunches. Even with all that, the school district was still left with a sizable balance.
So what about free and reduced lunch programs?
It’s important to note here that the vast majority of our schoolchildren are eligible for free meals courtesy of the Federal School Lunch Program,” Boasberg said in an interview with Colorado Public Radio. “It is important that every family that is eligible does sign up for that, but we’re committed to make sure, again, that every child … gets a healthy lunch every day.”
He added that many times students are not registered for the Federal School Lunch Program because the parents did not fill out the form properly or because the family just recently fell upon hard times. There are multiple reasons that families may not be able to pay for lunch.
Regardless, DPS’s commitment to making sure students don’t go hungry is refreshing — as is the support of the people whose rallying donations to KidsGiving365 are a testament to the power of our community spirit.
For more information on KidsGiving365, check out their website. And though the initial GoFundMe campaign goal was met, you can still participate, as all funds will go to providing for the needs of low-income DPS students.