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Boys Eating School Lunch

An 8-Year-Old Paid Off His Entire Schools Lunch Debt

A growing issue that’s beginning to appear within American politics regards the student lunch debt crisis in our public school districts. When students don’t have enough money in their specific schools lunch money account, they begin to acquire a debt that will eventually lead to them being cut off from buying meals all together. California recently combated this issue by banning lunch shaming students for being in debt, while also guaranteeing that no student would ever be denied a meal from their school, regardless of how much debt they’re in. 

Other solutions that have been brought about for paying off these debts have involved celebrities or major companies stepping in to donate enough money so that every student has the chance to eat a meal everyday; something that seems as though it should be guaranteed in a country that has such a focus on educational values/funding. 

Besides individuals who have the privilege, power, and financial means to pay for an entire district or states lunch funding, children are taking it upon themselves to help one another have guaranteed access to meals everyday. Recently, an 8-year-old boy named Keoni Ching from Vancouver, Washington raised over $4,000 to completely eradicate every student’s lunch debt at his school; along with six other schools as well. 

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It was “Kindness Week” at Benjamin Franklin Elementary where Keoni goes to school, and with a little help from his parents and friends, he was able to come up with the perfect kindness project for himself. Keoni told the news that he loves putting key chains on his backpack, so selling homemade ones just seemed like the perfect fit! Once his parents took to social media with their sons project his mini-business went viral, prompting dozens of order requests from all around the country! 

“We have sent key chains to Alaska, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Arizona, all over the country. There was one lady who said she wanted $100 worth of key chains so that she could just hand them out to people. There were several people who bought one key chain and gave [Keoni] a hundred bucks. It was absolutely amazing how much support the community showed for his whole project,” Keoni’s mother, April Ching, told CNN.

Keoni made and sold more than 300 key chains when all was said and done. He sold each one for $5, and with the additional donations made he was able to make $4,015, which he immediately gave over to Franklin Elementary school. According to the district, $1,000 of the money will be going towards paying off the student debt at the school; $500 to pay off the current total debt amongst the students, and another $500 to save for future debt occurrences. The remaining $3,015 will be distributed among six other schools in the Vancouver, Washington area for the same use. 

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“Lunches here are about $2. But if you have two or three kids and for whatever reason, you’ve missed (paying for) a week of lunch or breakfasts, that adds up pretty quickly. This type of a gift takes a little bit of pressure off of your family,” Franklin Elementary’s Principal Woody Howard said.

The story is rooted in inspiration, kindness, and innocence. When all is said and done, we do need to have a much larger conversation about why an eight-year-old had to pay off the debts of all his classmates when that debt equated to the cost of cell phone. The overarching issue comes down to public school funding and where our countries priorities lie in regard to that. Education is often pushed as the most important and necessary experience every single child must endure. However, how is a country that’s so focused on building up the minds of its younger generation, also so blind to the ways in which they’re also setting them up for failure?

According to the School Nutrition Association, during the 2017-2018 school year 75% of school districts in the United States reported unpaid student lunch debts by the end of the year. The SNA also reported that within the past decade, the average amount of unpaid debt that each student owed has increased by 70%. 

These statistics have caused stories like Keoni’s to increase within the past few years; and the public is understandably outraged by it. Luckily, most individuals understand that a child’s main priority when it comes to their education, should just be getting that education. As previously stated, because of this outrage states like California are making legal policies to combat any financial discrepancies that involve a child’s right to meals everyday. Like most politics, what seems like a no-brainier law, is anything but that, so we need to ensure that kids like Keoni can focus on fun, friends, and his time-tables, and leave the debt-crisis talk to the politicians who hold the same values. 

Kids at Lunch

California Bans “Lunch Shaming” And Guarantees Meals For All Its Students

Ryan Kyote is a third grader who made headlines this year for his huge act of kindness. However, what started as a heartwarming story about giving back, quickly turned into a negative commentary about the current state of funding for our public school systems, and discussions over social class advantages. Kyote’s elementary school had a system for buying school lunches, which cost on average $3.25, that stated if a child couldn’t afford to buy a lunch they could begin accumulating a debt with the school that would eventually have to be paid off. The school claimed that even if a child had a negative account balance that they could still purchase a meal, however, after a few times families were strongly discouraged against accumulating even more debt for their child. Ryan was devastated when he learned about how many of his classmates were going without lunches everyday. So out of the kindness of his own heart, he saved up enough of his allowance money to pay off his entire third grade classes lunch debt, which totaled $74.50.

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“I want them just to realize people actually think about them instead of just telling them what they did because you’re just bragging about stuff. I want them to feel happy that someone cares about them,” Ryan said.

When this story first began circulating it took the tone of an inspiring good deed news story with a happy ending. However, that mood greatly shifted when people began to ask, “isn’t it kind of messed up that a 9 year old is putting more initiative into our public school funding problems than our actual government?” And those individuals were not alone in their concern. Soon the story began trending nationwide, and people from all over were sharing similar stories of young students taking initiative to make sure all children are taken care of equally. The disapproval of the school systems inner workings also began to be brought more into light, and everyone was beginning to realize that this is a serious nationwide dilemma and something needed to be done. 

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So, California, Kyote’s resident state, decided to take action and draw inspiration from the 9 year old’s advanced work ethic and desire to do right by our nation’s students. Specifically, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a measure into law that guarantees state-funded lunches to be given to all public school students regardless of any student debt or unpaid meal fees, according to The Hill Magazine. It also specifically outlaws “lunch shaming” a form of bullying that also came into discussion when Ryan Kyote’s story went viral. Many schools across the country have much cheaper alternative lunch options for its students who are struggling financially. The lunches normally look much simpler and less inclusive than the standard option, which has caused bullying based on socioeconomic status to flourish. The law guarantees that no school will tolerate any form of shaming or bullying between students in regards to lunch debts or general financial situations, and in addition the law amends “the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017 by requiring school districts, charter schools and education agencies to invalidate policies that ask officials to give alternative meals to students with unpaid fees,” according to The Hill.

While it can universally be agreed upon that our country’s elementary school students should never have to take world policy and funding issues into their own hands, Ryan Kyote definitely is a huge inspiration for evoking a real change. Not only did his act of empathy and kindness warm the hearts of millions of Americans, but it actually made a legal difference. 

“Creating a ‘California for All’ means ensuring schools are inclusive, accepting, and welcoming of all kids,” Newsom said to The Hill before Ryan Kyote for bringing national attention to the issue. “He showed how at many schools across the country, students whose parents are not able to pay for their lunch are given a cheaper, ‘alternative’ lunch that causes them to stick out from their peers, which isn’t right. We thank Ryan for his empathy and his courage in bringing awareness to this important issue, and inspiring a real change.”