The popular yogurt company Chobani is making sure children in another US school district don’t miss any meals.
Chobani is donating $85,000 to schools that can't afford to pay off their lunch debt in Idaho’s Twin Falls County. The contribution will go toward the debts accumulated by 900 students, according to school officials. After assisting schools burdened by unpaid cafeteria bills in Warwick, Rhode Island, in May, Chobani reached out to the Twin Falls district where it has a manufacturing plant.
"Our communities are at the heart of everything we do, so we’re honored to do our part here in our backyard,” a Chobani spokesperson wrote in a statement released to Global Citizen.
Twin Falls schools have owed more than $115,000 in school debt in previous years, district spokesperson Eva Craner told CNN. But the schools always make sure to feed students even if they don’t have money in their lunchroom accounts, according to Craner.
On May 6, Warwick public schools sparked a national conversation around lunch debt practices when it announced that students with lunch debt would be served sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches until the balance was paid or a parent set up a payment plan. Experts recently told Global Citizen that students whose families don’t qualify for subsidized or free lunch but are still struggling financially are hurt the most by lunch debt. Those who opposed the rule worried it promoted “lunch shaming,” would ostracize low-income students, and harm their ability to focus in class.
After receiving backlash from parents and educators, Warwick officials put a hold on the policy. Chobani donated $47,650 toward Warwick’s lunch debt of approximately $77,000.
In the US, 76% of school districts have kids with school lunch debt, according to the School Nutrition Association. And the problem is only getting worse; the median lunch debt climbed from $2,000 to $2,500 per school district between 2016 and 2018, according to a survey conducted by the School Nutrition Association.
Chobani is encouraging others to join the fight to end hunger in schools.
“When we learned just how pervasive this issue is, we knew we needed to help raise awareness and eliminate this issue,” the Chobani spokesperson wrote. “Better food for more people is our mission, and no one deserves that more than children.”