The Newton community in Catawba County has rallied behind a group of elementary students who were relegated to eating cheese sandwiches at school because they were behind on paying their lunch accounts.
A GoFundMe account set up to pay up the accounts of the students at Blackburn Elementary reached and surpassed its $1,250 goal. The fund backers have now set a new goal of $3,500.
Taryn Faucette, who has a son at the school, said she started the account after the school sent out an email saying students with overdue accounts would be served an “alternative lunch” of a cheese sandwich and milk. The email also noted that students with overdue balances would not be able to attend the school dance on Dec. 9.
“Don't get me wrong, I get the school can't pay for everyone to eat, but with it being the holidays I also know finances can be tighter than usual,” Faucette wrote on the account.
“So I called the school and they gave me a dollar amount that all kids are behind...Even though some people may only owe as little as $20 it would still be great to take care of this one small bill for them around the holidays. I think that this world is so focused on all the bad going on around us right now and to do one small good deed for someone could start a rippling effect.”
Faucette noted she had received a lot of feedback and concern about the situation, which she says prompted her to set a higher goal of the account. As of Friday morning, it had raised $1,920 toward its new $3,500 goal.
Some critics of the campaign have pointed out financially struggling parents have a choice of applying for the free and reduced lunch program at the start of the year.
However, other commenters on the GoFundMe page noted students should not be held accountable for their parents bad choices.
“A cheese sandwich and milk? You try focusing in class on a belly barely full of a cheese sandwich and milk,” noted commenter Jordan Baker.
“I'm not blaming the school for being financially strapped, but this is just horrible. These are children...Is it too much to ask that rather than give a dry, bare-facts account, the school at least reach out with more compassion than this. Being singled out among one's peers like this is humiliating and cruel.”
Feedback on the account included some critics who noted financially struggling parents had a choice of applying for the free or reduced lunch program at the start of the year. Others noted the donors should have given directly to the school.
One commenter who claimed to have worked for the school said unpaid lunch accounts has been an on going issue. However, she said the school system should try addressing it differently.
“Children are not responsible for putting money in any account....They are children, depending on adults to take care of these things so why should they be punished,” said Doylene Mull on the GoFundMe page.
“You cannot imagine what this does to these little innocent souls. They are hurt, humiliated in front of their friends, in tears, totally traumatized. They have no control over their situations. They are at the mercy of adults and their decisions.”