GUYTON, Ga (WSAV) – Parents and students in Effingham County Schools are starting the new year with a clean slate. Four churches donated money from their congregations to help clear student lunch debt across the district.
Not being able to afford lunch can often lead to embarrassment or lunch-shaming for many students. Jessica O’Leary, the School Nutrition Coordinator, told News 3 that officials try to handle the problem as discreetly as possible.
She said if kids have no money in their account or cash in hand, they are allowed to charge up to an extra ten dollars. In addition, the funds from different churches will provide a donation account children can pull funds from if they reach their limit.
“Everything is computerized, so as soon as the child comes through, they put in their pin number for the day and we’re the only ones that know whether they’re in the negative or if we have to pull from the donation account,” said O’Leary.
Randy Shearouse, School Superintendent, said 38% of the 13,000 kids in the district qualify for free or reduced lunches. Zion Lutheran Church gave Effingham County Schools around $2500 to fill that need, whether it is an unexpected medical bill or a parent who has temporarily lost their job.
Pastor Ben Mandrick said his parish also partners with Manna House Ministries, a food pantry, to provide backpacks full of food for dozens of families to eat after school or on the weekends.
Pastor Ben told News 3 that as a parent of four kids, two in the district, he also wants to inspire others to ensure no child goes hungry.
“This is an issue in your county. It’s an issue nationwide, where hard times might come on certain individuals, or families. Economic stress happens, and the school lunch kind of gets behind. If you check in with your school board, wherever you are, I’m sure they could use some help or have a donation account already set up to whereas a church or as an individual, you can help contribute to making sure kids have hot food,” said Mandrick.