WOOD COUNTY, OH (WTOL) - Finding someone to sit with you at lunch can be tough during school. But the newest struggle among some students is questioning whether what is on their plate is acceptable or not.
Childhood hunger has always been an issue among schools.
For Toledo Public Schools, all breakfasts and lunches are now free at the elementary level. At many local suburb schools, lunch averages around $2.50.
Many schools have implemented a credit system to avoid children having to show how much cash they have.
Students are given an ID number which parents apply money to. That number is used to buy meals at school.
The credit system is supposed to help avoid a student from being lunch shamed.
When a student does not have a lunch or does not have the money to pay for one, many schools often resort to giving them a small meal like a cheese sandwich.
At Otsego Local School District, the protocol in place allows a student to charge a regular hot meal three times without money in their account before giving the student a cheese sandwich.
While the program has its positives, parents like KC Bailey have run into issues with the system.
Bailey's son was given a cheese sandwich because of his meal balance being empty. Bailey says her family does not struggle with finances and she was never informed about the low balance.
When she went up to the school to work the issue out, she realized many students are struggling with paying for lunch. She felt she had to do something about this problem.
That's when a pay it forward campaign began. Donations began to pour in from teachers, staff and the community.
Bruce Jeffers, a teacher at Otsego says the relationship him and his staff develop with their students made donating easy.
"Hearing some of them aren't able to pay for their lunches, it's difficult and we just hate to hear about that," Jeffers explained. "So we're glad to be able to pitch in when we can."
The donations have helped pay off debts the students at Otsego had. Also, students no longer getting the cheese sandwiches any more. Instead, all students are now eating the exact same meal.
Otsego Superintendent Adam Koch says there is comfort in all of the kids socializing around the same meal.
The Otsego community is hoping it inspires other communities to work together to ensure students don't have to worry about what's on their plate.
The heart behind the pay-it-forward campaign has spread. Noah Ramsey- and Owens Community College student has started a go-fund-me page to keep donations rolling in for Otsego Schools.
You can find it here.
And here are some tips to make a difference in your own school district:
- Call the Director of Food Service at your child’s school. Ask if the school has an alternative lunch and what it is.
- Find out an average of how many kids end up with not enough or no money to pay for lunch.
- Talk with the school principal and or superintendent and ask how the community can help.
- Ask if you can collect money from fellow teachers and parents.
- Ask if you can send out and email or send a flyer home with kids describing what it is your trying to do.