Inside: Kingston school district resident seeks to erase students’ lunch debts
Jill Draper is on a mission to erase the debt students owe for lunches in the Kingston school district.
Draper says it seems like a small way to make a big difference in improving the lives of children.
“This writer, Ashley C. Ford, suggested small local actions that could make a difference,” Draper said at Wednesday’s meeting of the Kingston Board of Education. “One of the actions she suggested was calling your local school district and clear the lunch debt ... because children accrue the lunch debt and it follows them through their entire schooling.”
Draper started by inquiring about the debt at John F. Kennedy Elementary School, and learned it was $200 in December, when she started the effort.
“I started with Kennedy because I live in the neighborhood,” she said.
“It wasn’t a lot, and I had committed that I would put $500 in,” Draper said. “I thought that’s what I could afford. When I heard that $200 could cover an entire school, I wanted to know how much further this could go with a little help.”
Draper said she now has a goal of erasing the entire $5,877.37 debt across the district.
“I contacted some local business owners, some private citizens, I used my Instagram and got a group together, and we covered some of the school district’s lunch debt,” she said. “We’re at $1,425, and we’re at about 10 of us [contributors] total.”
Student lunch debt, which accrues when a student gets a meal but doesn’t pay for it, ranges from about $75 to $387 at the district’s seven elementary schools, is a combined $2,305 at the two middle schools and is just over $1,854 at Kingston High School, according to district figures.
District Superintendent Paul Padalino said the debt follows students as they go through the system.
“A lot of this is backlogged for a couple of years,” he said.
Draper, who spins yarn and makes wool products, said developing a large fundraiser was not part of her initial plan because she had not previously participated in a campaign to raise money.
“This is the first fundraising I’ve ever done,” she said. “I’ve donated to causes before, but I’ve never actively run fundraising. But I have 12,000 Instagram followers ... so it’s nice to be able to leverage that a little bit for causes that I believe in.”