As of April 12th, 2023 lunch debt at Hays School District USD 489 is $1,134.
District staff said this figure tends to stay somewhere between the range of $1,000- $1,500 during any given month.
What's being done in our community?
Here in Hays locals have undertaken the initiative of tackling lunch debt at USD 489. First Call for Help intern spoke to Wyatt about the impactful initiative taking place at St. Michaels Episcopal Church started by members who wanted to feed the community and tackle school lunch debt. Wyatt spoke highly of the community and its willingness to get involved in this cause. Community members are invited every Thursday night from 6:30 to 7 pm to come to pick up some hot plates of spaghetti and sides for dinner for you and your family. Participants are free to give a donation of the amount they feel led to and this goes towards paying existing lunch debt at USD 489.
To date through the efforts of St. Michaels Episcopal Church here in Hays and its members; over $500 have been raised towards this cause. Wyatt, was asked about their greatest need currently. They said: “Money to keep going. We have some people who donate weekly and that helps greatly! But there are random odds and ends that we still need money for”.
The following video from ABC News 5 follows changes made in a school district to address the growing issue.
Eliminating school lunch debt has been a topic raised by our legislators nationwide. States such as Minnesota have passed bills that completely eliminate the cost of breakfast and lunch at school. These measures have many benefits, such as ensuring kids are ready to learn and are not distracted by going hungry due to their food insecurity. Some other benefits of eliminating school lunch debt include:
Reducing financial stress on families
In the United States, many families struggle to pay for school meals. According to a 2019 report by the School Nutrition Association, 75% of school districts reported having unpaid student meal debt at the end of the school year. Eliminating school lunch debt can significantly reduce financial stress on families and help ensure that all children have access to nutritious meals.
Reducing stigma for children
Children who receive free or reduced-price meals in the United States often face stigma from their peers. This can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment, which can negatively impact their academic and social development. By eliminating school lunch debt, all children can access healthy, nutritious meals without any stigma or shame attached.
Promoting healthy eating habits
In the United States, childhood obesity rates are a significant concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in five children in the United States is obese. School meals are an essential opportunity to promote healthy eating habits and reduce the risk of childhood obesity. By eliminating school lunch debt, all children can access healthy, well-balanced meals that promote good nutrition and overall health.
Supporting academic success
Hungry children cannot learn. In the United States, studies have shown that children who are hungry or food insecure have lower academic achievement and are more likely to have behavioral problems. By providing all children with access to nutritious meals, we can support their academic success and help them reach their full potential.
Strengthening school and community relationships
In the United States, schools often serve as an essential hub for communities. By working together to ensure that all children have access to healthy, nutritious meals, we can create a sense of shared responsibility and commitment to the well-being of our children. This can help to strengthen relationships between schools and the communities they serve and promote greater community involvement in education.