After he heard about the children in Utah whose school lunches were thrown out because their parents were behind on payments, Kenny Thompson was worried about the elementary school kids he tutored and mentored in Houston, Texas. So he went in to check whether they were getting the proper nutrition.
“I’m like, ‘Wow. I know that’s probably a situation at my school, and the school my son goes to, and the other schools I mentor at.’ So I came in and inquired about it,” Thompson told local station KSDK.
What he found disappointed him: Dozens of students were on “reduced” lunches, receiving cold peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches instead of the full hot meals they used to receive, all because their parents had fallen behind on lunch payments that amounted to mere 40 cents a day.
So Thompson took action. He forked over $465 of his own money and zeroed out the balances on over 60 students’ accounts.
“These are elementary school kids. They don’t need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling,” Thompson told station KPRC.
At just 40 cents a day, it may be surprising that so many kids across the country don’t have stable access to a full school lunch. But one in five American children lacks steady access to food, and three quarters of teachers report having students who regularly show up to school hungry. That hunger translates to emotional and psychological problems, as well as poor school performance.
School lunch programs can remedy this. Boston schools, for example, are providing free school lunches to everyone no matter their financial situation. Right now, though, those solutions aren’t taking hold. The existing free school breakfast program for low income students only draws half of the participants who could qualify.