A Seattle parent's GoFundMe project seeking to erase Seattle's school lunch debt reached its goal in just five days. Now, other parents are following his lead and starting fundraisers of their own.
Parents and educators in Everett and Marysville have started campaigns to help eradicate lunch debt in their school districts.
School lunch debt is accumulated when a child orders a meal at school but is unable to pay for it. The school won't turn the child away, but it won't give the child a full meal, and it will send a bill to their parents.
If a parent is already unable to send their child to school with lunch money, receiving the invoice from the school creates a bigger problem.
On his GoFundMe page, Lew wrote, "It is an awful thing and it should not be happening. Children need to eat regardless if they have money or not."
Lew originally started his campaign with the goal of paying off his child's school's $97 lunch debt. Then, his idea grew to include all of Seattle, which had a debt of around $21,000. He reached his goal Saturday, just five days after launching his campaign.
Sara Lenaburg of Everett seems to agree. The educator also started a fundraiser to pay off the debt of her child's school and then that of the entire Everett School District.
On her GoFundMe page, Lenaburg reported that 39.1 percent of students in Everett are on free or reduced-price meals. She wrote she wants to "ease the burden" on families and ensure students receive full, nutritious meals at school.
Three days into her campaign, Lenaburg has raised 18 percent of her $5,500 goal.
Lenaburg's project launched Saturday, a day after news came that a Marysville couple personally donated nearly $5,500 to their school district to pay off its school lunch debt.
Tom and Christy Lee wanted to give back to the district that had done "so much" for them over the years, and did so by helping current students.
The actions of Lenaburg and the Lee's are part of a larger movement to erase school lunch debt nationwide, and it's not a new trend in Washington. Amber Clark held a fundraiser in December 2016 and raised $2,400 for the Shoreline School District, and Jill Bysegger is almost at her goal of $900 to help the Anacortes School District. The Bellevue School District has also received around $2,000 in mostly anonymous donations for debt relief.