An eighth-grader has pledged to eliminate the school lunch debt for a district of 129 schools.Ben Hofer,14, started a project he’s calling “LunchCounts!” with a goal of raising $18,000 to pay off all of the school lunch debt in the Austin Independent School District. HisGoFundMe campaignkicked off on April 21st and so far, he’s raised $8,000 for his cause.
Ben got interested in the school lunch debt issue after hearing about the “lunch shaming” some students endure if their lunch account is behind. Ben's mom, Kelly Walton, said he came home a few months ago and told her "you know they were throwing food out in front of a kid if they cant afford it? He did interviews then with cafeteria budget workers and [learned] every kid gets a lunch, but they rack up debt."
"Their parents simply cannot pay it sometimes," she added. "I think it's good for him to realize that not everyone has [what he has]." Ben's research discovered that 57 percent of the students in the district receive free meals as part of the national school lunch program -- but not all students qualify if their family's income does not meet the requirements for free and reduced price meals. "People fall on hard times even when they're working and I just feel we'd all be better off if when someone in the community is struggling we helped them out so they could help us out if we fall on hard times.
When he first launched "LunchCounts!" Ben's original goal was to raise $3,200 to pay off the lunch debts at three school -- Blazier Elementary School, Paredes Middle School and Akins High School, since their campuses had the highest balances in the district.
When he started “LunchCounts!” his goal was to raise $3200 which would pay off the school lunch debts at three schools with the highest balances, but within a few days, he exceeded that goal. Now he’s raised almost half the district's overall debt and the Texas teen says, “I don't think we'll get there by the end of the school year, but you never know.”