By MARY ANN HOLLEY
Tri-County Labor Club recently donated $2,000 to the Francis Howell School District (FHSD) for their “Lunch Heroes” program. The donation will help families who are struggling to provide the funds to purchase a nutritious school lunch for their child.
The Lunch Heroes program is a way for individuals to make donations to support students when they no longer have sufficient funds in their accounts to pay for meals. Since December, about $8,000 has been raised.
“Every child deserves to have a healthy nutritious lunch regardless of his or her economic status,” said Dr. Mary Hendricks-Harris, FHSD Superintendent. “Being hungry has an enormous impact on a student’s ability to learn and concentrate in class, and we want to ensure that students have the fuel they need.”
Tri-County Board member Anita Kuehner of the National Education Association (NEA) presented the check to School Board Vice President Chad Lange, a member of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562 and the Tri-County Labor Club.
Tri-County Labor Club President Steve Bailey said it used to be unheard of to see middle-class families in suburbia struggling to buy their children’s school lunch.
“I am glad our membership supports and contributes to programs like these,” Bailey said. “We need to tip the scales with this next election by voting yes for Prop A to stop so-called ‘right-to-work’ in Missouri. Families are struggling and that should not be happening A ‘right-to-work’ law will only make things worse for working families.”
A typical school lunch costs about $50 a month per student. Annually, FHSD incurs about $10,000 in debt from students unable to pay for lunch. This year, there has been an increase in the number of students with negative balances, as well as larger negative balances. The money raised through the Lunch Heroes program will help reduce these outstanding balances and ensure that all students receive a nutritious meal.
Francis Howell School District participates in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. This allows families the opportunity to apply for Free and Reduced-Price Meal Benefits. Families are encouraged to apply if they are experiencing financial hardship. This application can be completed at any time, not just at the beginning of the school year.
A family of four qualifies for free/reduced priced meals if they make approximately $45,500 a year or less, but some families who make more than that still struggle to pay for school lunches. Currently, about 18 percent of FHSD families participate in the free/reduced meals program.