Fundraising effort aims to pay off Columbia kids' school lunch debt

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COLUMBIA — Kayla Calvert is raising money to help pay off overdue lunch accounts in Columbia public schools. While Missouri does have a free and reduced breakfast and lunch program, there are still students with overdue lunch accounts.

 In Missouri, every student receives lunch no matter the circumstances. Last year 18,525 students in Columbia were enrolled in the Missouri Free or Reduced Lunch Program according to statistics released by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education.

However, students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches may still not be able to afford lunch everyday. The school charges students for lunch if they cannot pay upfront.

“It’s a burden on families to know that they are $50 or even $100 in debt with the school because not only does that carry on over to the next school year, but it can also keep the students from getting things later on,” said Calvert.

As the weeks pass without payment, some schools are building up debt too. “Some of the schools are up to $3,000 in lunch accounts that are overdue,” said Calvert.

Calvert hopes to raise $1,000, which would cover the cost of about 300 meals, through her gofundme page. She is still unsure as to which school she will donate the money to, but hopes to donate to the elementary school in need most.

 “I always look for ways that I can help the community, so I thought that was a good way to do it,” said Calvert. 

This cause hits close to home with Calvert, who also at times struggled to afford lunch when she was in elementary school. 

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