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A Seattle Dad Is Working To Pay Off The School Lunch Debt Of Every Kid In Washington

While most every child is afforded the right to public education, the experience for children is no doubt compromised when they arrive at school without the money for lunch, often subjected to the humiliation of being denied food in front of their classmates. After reading a CNN expose piece on questionable school lunch policies, Seattle dad Jeffrey Lew was both saddened and outraged to learn that indigent students were, in some instances, having their food removed by school workers due to their carried lunch debts.

Lew is the father of two school-age boys, 9 and 4, as well as a 2-year-old daughter.


Speaking to Today, he offered his thoughts on what many see as a coldly practical and ultimately detrimental practice. “It's devastating! It boggles my mind that a child can accrue a debt at school. I was determined to do something about it,” he said.

After learning of the practice, he inquired as to the outstanding lunch debt at his son’s school. He summarily paid the $97.10 amount carried by the student body but realized that addressing the problem in a broader manner would require the means and effort of more than just one concerned father. Hoping to wipe clear the lunch debt of every Seattle public student — $20,531 was the figure he was given — Lew took to crowdfunding the undertaking using a GoFundMe campaign.

While his effort may have achieved national attention thanks to a flurry of media activity surrounding his initiative, local outlets have long been covering individual and institutional efforts to end lunch shaming and, above all else, feed hungry students.

Lew’s crowdfunding platform far surpassed its targeted goal of $50,000, allowing him to continue to broaden the effort. What started as the retirement of one school’s lunch debt then covered all of Seattle, then included nearby Tacoma, Clover Park, and Spokane thanks to a raised total of more than $100,000, per Today. The rapid growth of the campaign isn’t solely attributable to the good cause or Lew’s dedication. A little help from an A-list celeb goes a long way, too:

The initial effort has no turned into a full enterprise as Lew and his friend Stephen Medawar have launched LunchDebt.org, which helps fund campaigns similar to Lew’s all over the country. As if that isn’t enough, Lew just four days ago launched another GoFundMe to eradicate all student lunch debt in Washington. The campaign is currently trending, but it’s currently a far cry from its goal of $650,000. Give if you can.

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