WARWICK — As donations toward Warwick School students’ lunch debt continued to mount, Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani yogurt founder and CEO, pledged $47,650 – the amount owned by low income students.
A GoFundMe donation page set up to raise the entire $77,000 lunch debt owed by students’ families had gathered $52,424 by 9:30 p.m. Thursday night. Together, the Chobani and GoFundMe donations can pay off the debt, with $23,074 to spare.
RI House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23) and Mayor Joseph J. Solomon announced Chobani’s donation Thursday. Shekarchi and Solomon said in a joint release they are partnering with Chobani to bring attention to the national crisis of food insecurity among students.
Chobani is also pledging to donate cups and bottles of our Chobani® Greek Yogurt to the community in Warwick, Solomon’s office stated in the announcement.
Ulukaya encouraged other business to join them in finding a solution to ensure hungry children receive better nutrition.
Ulukaya said that while Warwick Public Schools district’s move to put its policy of serving a jelly sandwich to students with lunch debt on hold was a positive move, he still wanted to pay the debt and take the opportunity to raise awareness of children being denied nutritious meals and suffering the stigma of not being served the same meal as their peers, according to the announcement.
Ulukaya noted in the statement that children and adults in 2.9 million U.S. households were food insecure in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unpaid school lunches are a nationwide problem that is impacting local communities with strapped school budgets. The median school lunch debt climbed from $2,000 to $2,500 per school district between 2016 and 2018, according to a survey conducted by the School Nutrition Association.