Seattle dad: If we feed inmates, why can't we feed schoolchildren?

Seattle dad: If we feed inmates, why can't we feed schoolchildren?

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Seattle dad: If we feed inmates, why can't we feed schoolchildren?

Public schools are hurting, to the point that some are replacing hot lunches with cold lunch sacks because it’s cheaper.

It may be a financial burden for schools to feed kids who can’t afford lunch. But is it ethical to keep a child from eating?

Is it right to hold kids publicly accountable for unpaid lunch bills, a practice known as “lunch shaming?”

Seattle dad Jeff Lew decided to channel his frustration into action.

5 facts about hunger in America

Hunger in Our Schools raises awareness about school hunger and provides solutions to help. According to the non-profit:

  • Roughly 13 million, or one in six, American kids go hungry at school.
  • 59 percent of kids go to school hungry.
  • About 70 percent of older kids let their younger siblings eat first.
  • Some teachers spend up to $300 of their own money a year to feed kids who can’t afford lunch.
  • 90 percent of students who can’t afford lunch said they cannot focus on school work and have nearly failing grades.

These statistics, along with the schools’ $97 school-lunch debt, prompted Lew to do something about it. What if he could erase everyone’s lunch debt?

No place for ‘lunch shaming’

Jeff Lew, Seattle dad changing school hunger. Photo credit: Steve Korn Photography

Lew was outraged when he saw a CNN story about “lunch shaming.”

“These are children we’re talking about,” Lew said in an email to AlltheMoms.com. “The fact that these children can accrue a debt at such a young age and get shamed for it is appalling.”

He asked himself, “Why stop at just paying off the school lunch debt?” Why not help the entire Seattle (Public) School District’s lunch debt out?”

So, he did.

We can all do a little to help a bunch

He created a GoFundMe campaign aimed to “erase Seattle school lunch debt.”

As of Aug. 29, he had reach surpassed his $50,000 goal.

When he started the campaign on May 9, the Seattle Public School District had more than $20,000 in school-lunch debt. Lew’s efforts paid all of last year’s lunch debt in his home district. This was a personal cause for Lew, he said.

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. I used to look forward to school lunches each day. I am sure these children feel the same!

People donated, they were hungry once too

Stephen Medawar, founder of Lunchdebt.org

He said he reached out to local politicians, who agreed to meet with Lew and fellow dad Stephen Medawar, founder of LunchDebt.org, to discuss solutions.

“I’m hoping they all meant it so we can talk about possibly making plans for universal lunches,” Lew said.

Lew hopes America is watching how two dads take on school hunger in their state so it can be “erased” nationally.

“No matter what the situation is, it’s the children that are being affected,” he said.

“We must provide them with all the tools they’ll need to ensure their success.”

How you can help

Lew hopes he is leading by example for his three kids, ages 2, 4 and 9. It’s the legacy he wants to leave behind.

For Washington state residents, Lew said donations can be made at LunchDebt or his GoFundMe page.

All it takes is one parent in each state to start their own campaigns. He also recommends parents reach out to local politicians.

One way he is helping parents is by making them aware of free and reduced lunch programs schools offer. “If you haven’t already, you can fill out forms to see if you do qualify.”

His final message:

“I think America needs to know that this is happening. It’s happening to our children. And why are we letting it? If we can give our inmates 3 meals a day, we can do better for our kids. Universal lunches for all! I believe we can do it, so let’s fight for it!”

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