CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) — A new partnership has formed to help public school children in the Lowcountry pay back their past due lunch debt. The Lowcountry Blessing Box Project joined forces with another local nonprofit I Heart Hungry Kids this spring to raise money. With the help of Queen Street Hospitality Group and the Charleston Restaurant Foundation, they launched the “Catch Up on Lunch” initiative which has raised over $25,000.
Throughout the last few months, the groups held ‘spirit nights’ at local restaurants including: 82 Queen, Swig and Swine, Muddy Waters Coffee, Famulari’s Pizza, and Fair Deal Grocery. A percentage of the night’s proceeds were donated to the lunch campaign.
The efforts of these groups helped completely cover the debt for four schools in Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkley Counties:
Flowertown Elementary – Dorchester County – $8,230.93
Philip Simmons Elementary – Berkeley County – $5,017.40
CE Williams Middle School – Charleston County – $7,298.12
Stiles Point Elementary – Charleston County – $1,781.97
Lunch debt places a large burden on public schools, forcing them to redo budgets, taking funding from arts programs, teacher development programs, and other growth initiatives.
Katie Dahlheim, founder of the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project, says there are inconsistencies in the way schools have handled lunch debts in the past and this initiative aims to bring awareness to the hunger problems facing public school kids in the area.
”There are inconsistencies between schools in how lunch debt is tackled — some schools take away activities for students whose parents owe a debt or send the debt to collections. Moving forward we want to focus our efforts on long-term solutions to this problem such as increased awareness for free lunch programs and assistance with federal applications for reduced lunches.”
Additionally, kids may face “lunch shaming,” a practice in which they are served sub-par food in comparison with the rest of the student body.
Executive Director for I Heart Hungry Kids says the work will not stop here.
“As the Catch Up On Lunch initiative goes forward in the next school year, our goal is to increase our impact on Tri-County school kids by creating more alliances in our community and by adapting the best practices of successful programs nationwide in combating lunch shaming and lunch debt.”