A Greeley-Evans School District 6 campaign to wipe out meal debt has received nearly $100,000 in donations, thanks to a Denver television news program airing a feature on the Food4Success effort.
Since 9News reporter Kyle Clark featured the District 6 debt Sept. 9 in a weekly segment called “Word of Thanks” on his show “Next with Kyle Clark,” the district has received $97,880 in donations as of Thursday morning to help cover the $147,819 debt and allow the district to avoid taking funds from other programs.
“We are thrilled,” said Julie Hill, executive director of The Success Foundation, a 10-year-old non-profit organization independent from District 6 overseeing the long-running Food4Success campaign. “We can’t express it enough. It was well beyond our expectations.”
Clark tweeted Wednesday afternoon that the total of $96,000 marks the largest fundraising week for a Word of Thanks feature.
I can’t believe it. #HeyNext viewers have KEPT giving to pay off student lunch debt in Weld County and have now donated $96,000, our single largest fundraising week to date. #9News https://t.co/TUNFC3b75r
— Kyle Clark (@KyleClark) September 16, 2020
Hill said a lot of the donations came in from the Denver area and from out of state.
“Having this on a Denver news channel opened it up to a much broader audience,” Hill said.
A Sept. 11 news release from District 6 indicated the debt stems from unpaid student meals. The district stopped trying to collect on the debt, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn. This has then led to the district taking money from its general fund to make up the difference, Hill said.
She added the debt is not fully an effect of the pandemic. There are District 6 families who struggle to pay for student meals in the best economic times.
“This is an all-the-time problem,” Hill said. “It’s not just a pandemic issue. The debt has to be paid by families or the district. Nutrition services under normal circumstances tries to collect.”
For now, the district does not have worry about the debt — and its effect on other programs. District 6 Chief of Communications Theresa Myers said Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture two weeks ago approved funding to schools that allows districts to provide free meals to all students. This approval is similar to how districts fed students during the spring and summer.
Myers added the district wants families to continue to apply for free and reduced lunch funding, which is tied to money District 6 receives for the program.
District 6 Nutrition Services Director Danielle Bock added Wednesday that families will stop accruing meal debt with the USDA action. The agency provides funds to schools to feed students for free, but the funding will likely run out before winter break, Bock said.