To raise funds for lunch debt accrued by DPS students across the district, Cattivella restaurant owner/chef Elise Wiggins and her partner Rachel Chaparro of Grace and Sky Homes hosted a cooking class for children on August 5.
At the event, 24 children and a few of their parents learned how to make Chef Wiggins’s lunchbox meatball sub. In the process, they contributed $2,500 to a campaign run by nonprofit Kidsgiving365.org.
Chaparro and Wiggins had learned that a number of DPS students had fallen behind on lunch payments and would not get a full lunch as a result, so they decided to host a fundraiser where kids could help be a part of the solution. “We look forward to hosting future kids cooking classes paired with life lessons to benefit the community,” said Chaparro.
In all, the campaign gathered donations of $17,632 towards outstanding lunch debt of $13,910 in the district. Grant Barnhill, of Shift Workspaces, a parent of an incoming DPS student, had committed to paying the balance, which now appears unnecessary. In fact, the generosity of the community means that the excess, after fundraising fees, will be directed to the needs of “the poorest children living in the Denver Housing projects,” according to the GoFundMe webpage set up by KidsGiving365.
Superintendent Boasberg announced on August 3 that, going forward, the district will ensure that every kid who wants a healthy lunch will get one. “We will feed every kid, every day,” Boasberg said. “We know hungry kids aren’t the best learners.”
DPS will continue to work to collect money from families who owe for their kids’ meals. More than two thirds of DPS students already qualify for free lunch and there is additional state funding that allows students who qualify for reduced-price lunch to receive free meals. The food services teams encourage students to fill out applications for these programs, but it is thought that some immigrant families may be hesitant to do so.
The district will also continue to follow federal laws related to school lunch debt. According to DPS, the National School Lunch program audits participating districts to ensure they are not providing free lunch to students who do not qualify for subsidized meals.