Holiday angels pay lunch debt for Durham students
Posted December 19, 2016
Durham, N.C. — A few friends turned their plan to celebrate the holiday season with generosity into the gift of thousands of school lunches for hundreds of students in Durham.
"I’ve been in Durham Public Schools for 10 years, and this is the first time I’ve seen something like this," said James Keaten, executive director of Child Nutrition Services.
Keaten said he got a call Monday from a woman who wanted to donate to children in need. Within hours, the group of friends, who asked to remain anonymous, had established a GoFundMe page. In just three days they raised enough to pay off the debt of 632 families who pay a reduced price for school lunch.
"It’s important because it directly affects the families," Keaten said. "The money goes to help pay the balances that the kids owe that the parents are responsible for. This is not the school system receiving the money. This is the parents who are actually in need. This is helping the children to ensure they continue getting healthy, nutritious meals during the day."
While many of Durham's 34,300 public school students qualify for free lunches, about 5 percent pay a nominal fee of 40 cents per day.
"Some of them are working two, three jobs and just barely getting by," Keaten said. "To be able to afford their bills and buy their Christmas presents, take care of their day-to-day living, even though it’s only 40 cents a day to feed a child, if you have two or three children, that adds up pretty quickly. It’s a significant help to these parents."
The friends got donations from about 200 people and delivered more than $5,000, completely making up the deficit for more than 13,000 school lunches.
Keaten called it tremendous, and he wished a very Merry Christmas to the group he calls his Durham Lunch Angels.