Monroe man making fundraiser to erase school lunch debts
There is almost $40,000 in unpaid lunch debts among Monroe students, and almost $100,000 for Snohomish students
MONROE — At about $3 a pop for “the perfect sloppy joe” and $2 for mini strawberry pancakes, Monroe students have collectively run up a school meal tab of almost $38,000 that a local doctor is hoping to pay off with the community’s help.
It was a Christmas oversight that sparked a New Year’s resolution for chiropractor Nathan Strohm.
The doctor typically budgets two to three thousand dollars to spread Christmas cheer, but this year, the holiday zipped right by him, leaving Strohm to wonder how to best help the community.
He reached out on Facebook and gathered a wealth of ideas, but the one that made the biggest impact took him by surprise: Debts for school meals — which in Monroe is $37,751 worth of unpaid bills. The balance carries from year to year, explained district spokeswoman Tamara Krache.
So Strohm again took to Facebook. Soon, he heard numerous offers from individuals, churches and businesses to pay down the debt.
“I think we can make a huge dent,” Strohm said.
Strohm is focusing on the $12,163 debt of low-income children who are eligible for free meals. While they may be eligible, if the paperwork isn’t filled out or has problems, tabs can accumulate.
No student is denied food if they don’t have money, but students can’t receive a diploma or transcript if they owe lunch or other debts. The nonprofit Monroe Public Schools Foundation assists students in that position, Krache said.
The foundation gladly accepts donations against the meal debt, foundation director Sue Skillen told the Facebook fundraisers. Donations labeled for the lunch fund will be applied specifically to that balance.
As of Jan. 16, the foundation had received $535 to pay off meal balances and Strohm continues to fundraise.
One of the first donations was from Joey Felger. The Monroe mother of five saw Strohm’s appeal and didn’t hesitate to contribute. She auctioned off three of the custom signs from her business Simply too Shabby, quickly meeting a $250 goal.
Student meal debts are not unique to the Monroe School District, and every district has a process in place to reduce balances and get eligible students free or reduced cost meals.
In Snohomish, “our current negative balance on food accounts is $99,377.75,” said school district spokeswoman Kristin Foley. People who want to contribute can visit the district’s administration building at 1601 Ave. D and ask to speak to someone in Business Services.
In the Everett School District, the accrued amount is $6,674, said spokeswoman Diane Bradford. The district has received 17 donations this year totalling $3,114 that reduced the balance. People who want to contribute can call the Food and Nutrition Office at 425-385-4380.
In Monroe, people can contact the Foundation at www.monroepsf.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-804-4317. In Monroe, to see if your family is eligible for free or reduced price student meals, visit www.tinyurl.com/FreeMealCheck
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