- Around 30 million American students around the country qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches through a federal program called the National School Lunch Program.
- Even with programs like these, many students simply cannot afford to pay the full cost of a daily school lunch. Most of these students still end up getting fed, but they and their parents are forced to take on debt.
- Shocked by harrowing stories of students unable to pay off their lunch debt, a former US Marine in Virginia, named Dustin Wright, contacted his local high school and found it was owed over $4,000.
- Wright decided to start a Facebook fundraiser to help pay off the school's lunch debt. He set his initial goal at $1,000 but tripled that in just two days.
- In less than a week, the fundraiser racked in over $7,500 from 256 donors.
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A former US Marine in Virginia created a Facebook fundraiser to help pay off his local high school's lunch debt. In less than a week, he received nearly double the amount that families owed.
Scraping together the few dollars necessary to pay for a daily school lunch might not seem like an exuberant cost, but for many, it's a few dollars too much. Around 30 million American students qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches through a federal program called the National School Lunch Program.
But even with that aid, many fall through the cracks and end up owing their school money. Schools often still feed the child, but the parents end up racking up lunch debt. And those debts can add up.
One Rhode Island school that said it was owed more than $40,000 from unpaid lunch payments started dishing out cold sandwiches to students who couldn't afford to pay the full lunch price.
In some cases, the burden of school debt can have more profound consequences, like earlier this year in Pennsylvania when a school threatened to send students to foster care if parents didn't wipe their children's balances.
Families at Dustin Wright's local high school owed $4,000 in school lunch debt
Stories like these prompted Virginia resident and former US Marine Dustin Wright to wonder whether schools in his own backyard were struggling.
Wright contacted Amherst County High School, according to local news outlet WSET, and learned they had racked up over $4,000 in outstanding lunch debts. Shocked to action, the former Marine created a fundraiser on Facebook to help make a dent in the debt.
Wright set his first goal at $1,000, but by day two of the fundraiser, he'd already tripled that amount.
Dustin Wright / Facebook
"After reading several stories of kids having to put hot lunches back because they didn't have enough money on their cafeteria accounts I thought maybe we could raise some money for kids in similar situations in our area," Wright wrote in an October 2 Facebook post.
"Children should not be worried about the account balances they just need to focus on school and getting food to feed their growing minds and bodies," he added.
Less than a week after the fundraiser began, Wright has raised $7,676 from 256 separate donors. Amherst Public Schools did not immediately respond to Insider's questions regarding how it would allocate the charitable funds.
For Wright, the fundraiser was an unexpected success. With the donation window officially closed, Wright typed out his gratitude to supporters in a personal Facebook post on Monday.
"My biggest regret of this whole fundraiser is that I didn't write down all of the names of the people who donated to actually make it all possible," Wright wrote."THANK YOU everyone who participated in the fundraiser with me whether that was donating, sharing the post or just messaging me with approvement and encouragement."
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