FARGO — A social media campaign aiming to help eliminate lunch debt for families in the Fargo Public Schools raised more than $4,000 that will now be put toward the cause, according to an organizer of the fund drive.
"We hope to run the social media campaign again next year and many more years in the future to continue to raise awareness and help families in our community in need," said Michaela Schell, who helped to put the fund drive together along with Chris Kulesa, both of whom took on the effort as part of the Women's Leadership Program, a program of the North Dakota Women's Business Center.
Fargo school officials say that last year about $30,000 worth of hot lunches went unpaid.
In some cases, when a family is unable or unwilling to pay for lunches served to students, the school district seeks to recoup the cost by submitting unpaid accounts to collection agencies.
In smaller debt cases involving balances of $60 or less, the district often aims to continue working with families to see if a collection agency can be avoided. According to the school district, for the 2019 school year about 117 students had lunch debt over $60, while about 831 students had lunch debt below $60.
The social media fund drive began on Oct. 21 with a post on the Fargo Public Schools Facebook page. The initial campaign concluded Nov. 4, but Schell said the program and link to donate will be ongoing through the rest of the year and anyone is welcome to donate at any time at fargoschoolsfoundation.org.
The campaign's original Facebook posting can be found on the school district's Facebook page.
School officials stressed that any family facing financial stress may apply for the district's free and reduced lunch program, which can help families when things like lunch costs become a barrier.