The Ballard Talisman

Anonymous donation clears lunch account debts

Students+stand+in+line+for+lunch+in+the+cafeteria.+The+anonymous+donation+of+%241%2C000+was+given+to+the+school+specifically+to+pay+off+any+debt+in+student+lunch+accounts.+%28Julian+Whitworth%29
Students stand in line for lunch in the cafeteria. The anonymous donation of $1,000 was given to the school specifically to pay off any debt in student lunch accounts. (Julian Whitworth)

Students stand in line for lunch in the cafeteria. The anonymous donation of $1,000 was given to the school specifically to pay off any debt in student lunch accounts. (Julian Whitworth)

Students stand in line for lunch in the cafeteria. The anonymous donation of $1,000 was given to the school specifically to pay off any debt in student lunch accounts. (Julian Whitworth)

Zoe Bodovinitz, Staff Reporter

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Recently, a very generous donation of $1,000 was given to the school specifically to pay off any debt in student lunch accounts. The donor is a parent of two students who would like to remain anonymous.

“I wanted to make a donation that would directly affect Ballard High School students. There is enough stress, without having to worry about whether or not you can eat, and having to face the people who work in the kitchen that you don’t have the money to pay,” the donor said in an e-mail response. “I know first hand what that is like.”

This money will be used only for student lunch debts even after the current debts are paid.

The Administrative Secretary Vivian Belcher keeps close count of the money for lunch accounts.

“The dollar count just from September to now is approximately $475 that was owed by kids not being able to pay their lunch,” Belcher said.

After using the donation to pay off current debts, there will be $525 leftover which will continue to keep students out of debt for as long as possible, even if it isn’t all year.
“That five and a quarter leftover won’t last us until June,” Belcher said.

The donor talked with Lan Dang, the cafeteria manager, about the best time to make their donation so that it could help the largest amount of students.

“Lan asked me if I could pay at the end of the school year, so that those seniors who couldn’t pay would still be able to graduate. There should be enough in the donation to cover that, but if not, we are willing to help out in June as well,” the donor said.

How much money a student owes in their lunch account determines whether they can continue to receive lunch.

“At some dollar value, you’d have to check with the lunchroom, I believe $10 and under they’ll let you still buy lunch and over $10 they say ‘no,’” Belcher said.

This isn’t the first instance of a parent stepping in to help get some kids out of lunch debt. The Huffington Post reported on a Seattle School District father in May of 2017. He started a GoFundMe account dedicated to raising money to pay off lunch debts throughout the whole district. It spread into other districts throughout the state.

“Statistically we are not a very high free and reduced school so I think if you were to look at other schools throughout the district and other whole school districts, we’re talking a lot of money,” Belcher said.

The GoFundMe ended up raising over $25,000 which helped eliminate lunch debts for many students who couldn’t afford to pay it off themselves. This $1,000 may seem small compared to $25,000 but it will serve the school greatly and help many students for months to come.

“I hope that my donation will lessen the load of stress that you high schoolers are under, that in knowing that you don’t have to worry about whether or not you can eat, that you’ll be able to concentrate on other aspects,” the donor said.

Hopefully this is just the start of helping all students receive the lunches they need.

“I think the goal is that if our community sees that one parent made this donation, the other parents will also make maybe smaller donations to keep this going so that none of our kids get turned down for a meal,” Belcher said.

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Anonymous donation clears lunch account debts