A school district in Maine has had over half of its student lunch debt erased because of a generous donation by an anonymous source.
Peter Lancia, Superintendent of the Westbrook School District, located in a suburb of Portland, Maine, was literally in the middle of a TV interview about student lunch debt when an email arrived informing his office of a $10,000 donation to help erase that debt.
With the end of the school year approaching, the Westbrook student lunch debt is nearly $17,000. The donor chose to remain anonymous, but her check will take care of over half the debt.
“I’m not speechless often, and it was one of those moments,” said Lancia. “I know this will relieve a very significant amount of the overall debt.”
Roughly 60% of the students in Westbrook qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school. But even at a reduced cost, some students can’t afford to pay, causing that debt to grow.
“We want children to eat,” explains Lancia. “We feed kids, and we settle the bills with parents later.”
Elementary and middle school students can continue to receive a free lunch even if they owe money. However, high school students can only receive two additional meals if they are not up to date on payments.
The school often has to swallow the student lunch debt, taking money away from other needs the school may have. Lancia isn’t sure how the $10,000 donation will be allocated. But it should provide a great deal of relief for many families of Westbrook students.
The $10,000 donation is enough to pay for more than 4,000 meals at Westbrook. Needless to say, it’s a huge help for the school district. Student lunch debt has become a nationwide issue in recent years. Any kind of assistance a school receives to pay off that debt is always appreciated.
“We provide, often times, the only stable meal for the day, the only guarantee for a meal, so I think this person just wanted to show her belief in kids and recognize that there are kids in need,” says Lancia. “She was able to help them, and I am just really grateful she was able to do that.”