Along about the time spring break rolls around each year, the Franklin Special School District begins to remind its families with school lunch balances that those need to be paid down by the end of the year.
Those reminders weren’t sent this year, as the COVID-19 outbreak brought a halt to just about everything. So instead of nudging parents to pay off their children’s lunches, the FSSD created a campaign that asked both those inside the district community and those outside it to help with whatever donations they could.
“We usually do a pretty strong push in April and May for parents to pay off that balance, and we didn’t have that this time,” explained Marné Price, Child Nutrition Operations Coordinator for the FSSD. “To do this campaign would be a way to help families not to have that pressure or have another debt to look at when their children come back to school in August.”
Named Take a Bite Out of School Lunch Debt, the initiative was launched April 6, and by the end of the month the total balance of around $9,000 got carved down to less than $2,800. It came through the kindness of strangers and friends alike.
“The whole community has come together to help,” Price said.
Some of the parents have been able to handle payment of their accounts. Others, however, took a harder hit financially from the virus impact, and have been strapped to pay.
“People usually start paying off their balance in April," Price said of a typical school year. “But with us not in school and with people losing their jobs, some parents who normally could pay their lunch account can’t right now.”
Help has come from a variety of sources, including from parents who have a surplus of money in their lunch accounts. Several have asked that that left-over money be donated to another child.
“A child in the eighth grade will be going into high school in another district (Williamson County Schools), and that money doesn’t follow them,” Price said. “So we’ve heard from those parents who ask us to donate that money to a child with a balance.”
Teachers have also stepped up, with some transferring money they have in their lunch accounts and others simply donating outright. As of Thursday night, the total for teachers’ donations has been nearly $1,640.
Price is optimistic the balance will be paid in full by the time the school year ends.
“We’re really hopeful,” she said. “Next week will be a month [since launch of the campaign]. To get this far down in that short a period is just great. We just need a few more donations.”