Wesley Center works to raise funds for families with school lunch debt


Yanhua Huang/Iowa State Daily

The Collegiate United Methodist Church on Lincoln Way. 

Anneke Johnson

After a morning filled with schoolwork, lunchtime at school serves as a relaxing break where kids can fuel up to tackle the rest of the day. But when the cost of school lunch goes unpaid, families may go into debt with the school.

To aid families struggling with this problem, the Wesley Foundation of the United Methodist Student Center will be holding a fundraiser at the Memorial Union from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday with the goal of eliminating student lunch debt in the Ames Community School District.

“We learned that the school lunch debt in Ames is $47,000,” said Jen Hibben, campus counselor of the Wesley Center.

The Ames Community School District currently has 575 students with a negative balance, according to a post on the Wesley Center’s Facebook page.

“The families who are incurring that school lunch debt, if they have more than $100 worth of meal debt at the end of the school year, it’s sent for collection, which is a real problem for families who are already struggling with food insecurity,” Hibben said.

Chris Stensland, chief financial officer of Ames Community School district, confirmed this.

“By Iowa law, every student is to be served a reimbursable meal, which is defined by the federal government, and then the federal government says that if they don’t qualify for free or reduced lunch you will charge them, so that goes on to their account,” Stensland said. “Once a family reaches $100, then we turn it over to collection, per our policy.”

Hibben emphasized the importance of eliminating this debt in favor of a better education for children and relief for parents worrying about feeding their kids.

“We thought that if we were able to eliminate the school lunch debt when students went back to school, that their families and [students] would be able to focus better on their schoolwork and have a little bit of relief from that constant, ongoing pressure of wondering where their next meal is going to come from and making sure that their kids are well fed,” Hibben said.

There are other ways the Wesley Center is trying to lower the current lunch debt. One way is asking for monetary donations. People can donate by either attending and donating cash at one of the Sunday services or by donating through a website.

People can donate at the website https://tinyurl.com/nomealdebt and enter the amount on the “Ames Schools Meal Payoff Advent Offering” line.

One hundred percent of all the donations will go directly to paying off the school meal debt.

Another way the Wesley Center is raising money is through a bake sale.

From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the Wesley Hall, kitchen people will be able to do some “Stress Relief Baking” as a way of creating baked goods for the bake sale. The bake sale will be before and after the 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. worship services Sunday at the Wesley Center. Treat boxes will be $20 and offer a collection of holiday treats.