Help Needed For Other Schools
Communications Director for Weakley County Schools
Thanks to the generosity of local individuals and businesses, every Gleason School student will begin their second semester with no lunch debt. Even with the contribution, the district’s student lunch debt remains at an all-time high.
Gleason industry Imerys Clay Company donated $1,200 last month to assist with student lunch charges. Additionally, Gleason School alum Jaclyn Weber spearheaded collection efforts from community members totaling $1,245 to help the cause.
Weber said that an anonymous post on Facebook sparked the idea to coordinate the collection.
“I saw a post on Facebook that was being shared with the idea of giving back to the community through paying for children’s lunches at local schools. I knew when I read it that we could help the kids at Gleason end their semester on a positive note. It is out of a child’s control as to how their guardians’ money is spent or if there is any money to spare. Everyone is going through tough times right now and this was just a small gesture to help them in a special way. Around 40 caring individuals donated money, some even from out of state,” said Weber.
Brent Champion and Michael Puckett both hope that Imerys Clay’s donation will bring relief to students and families at Gleason School.
“At the Imerys Gleason Operation, we have several employees with children and grandchildren that attend Gleason School. We feel as though no child or family should worry about lunch debt,” mentioned Champion.
Puckett added, “Hopefully this donation will bring some relief to the school community. We also want to thank the school employees for all that they do.”
According to Director of Schools Nutrition Trista Snider, the support is greatly appreciated.
“We are thankful to Imerys Clay, Jaclyn Weber, and all the individuals who donated to help cover student lunch debt this holiday season. We also want to express our appreciation for other donations from $5 up to $100 that were given by caring people across the county,” she said.
While the donations will leave Gleason students and their families debt free in their school lunch accounts, the district’s overall student lunch debt soars at the start of this second half of the school year.
Students who do not have lunch money may still eat lunch each day using the ‘charge’ method.
Snider explained that the halt on federal funding that supported free meals in schools has made a clear impact.
“For the past 2 years, school cafeterias across the nation were provided federal funding to serve every student a free breakfast and free lunch each day. This school year, that provision ended, and paid meals resumed. While our department still provides free breakfast and assumes the associated costs, federal funding doesn’t cover the entire cost of lunch meals,” said Snider.
Snider also believes inflation is a significant factor.
“Just as it has been a challenge for school cafeterias to collect money this school year, we know it has been a burden to families. Inflation has caused increases in the prices of everything, including school lunch costs. We are beginning the second semester with a district total of $7,632 in student lunch debt – and that’s after the generous donations to pay off Gleason School’s lunch debt. This puts us at the highest student lunch debt our district has ever encountered,” she said.
Snider and Gleason Alum Jaclyn Weber said that opportunities to help with school lunch debt are always available.
“An account is open at the Bank of Gleason, and anyone can donate money at any time by letting the teller know that the contribution is for Gleason Cafeteria Donations,” Weber stated.
Snider shared, “We thank the individuals who have helped students and families who needed assistance this year, and we also say thank you to the families who have paid their children’s lunch debt faithfully. For those who are interested in contributing, contact a school cafeteria or the Weakley County School Nutrition Department at the Board of Education by calling (731) 364-2247.
For more about Weakley County Schools, visit weakleycountyschools.com.