NPR & Storycorps feature Feed the Future Forward!
“Giving Every Kid Equal Standing In The School Lunch Line”
For students who don’t have enough money for a hot lunch each day, visiting the cafeteria can be a source of shame. In Houston, school volunteer Kenny Thompson decided he wanted to change that.
Hear the rest of the story: http://www.npr.org/2014/09/12/347669760/giving-every-kid-equal-standing-in-the-school-lunch-line
Cy-Fair ISD officials are in search of a few more heroes to follow in the footsteps of “lunch angel” Kenny Thompson.
Thompson began by paying off negative account balances at an elementary school in Spring Branch ISD – and has since started a movement that has spread to multiple school districts.
Darin Crawford, director of food service for Cy-Fair ISD, said every year the department has a number of delinquent accounts for school lunches.
“This is a problem that exists nationwide,” Crawford said. “It’s a topic of conversation, but you don’t hear a lot of solutions.”
When accounts are not paid, the district has to use educational funds to cover the expense, he added.
Some schools have additional funds set aside to help out – but other campuses do not.
Thompson became aware of the problem when one of the several students he mentors was served a cold cheese sandwich at an elementary school in Spring Branch ISD.
The student’s parents had not paid their bill – and he was served a subpar lunch as a result.
Around the same time, Thompson heard the story on national news about students in Utah who had their lunches yanked away due to delinquent accounts.
A right to a meal
Thompson, who lives in the Spring Branch area, believes that every child has a right to a school lunch.
Students need fuel to focus on their studies and to succeed in classroom tasks, he said.
“If they are not eating well, none of that happens,” Thompson said. “Once the door closes, they’re our kids. Why we can’t feed them one meal a day is beyond me.”
He also was upset to learn that students were being called out in public about the issue.
“It broke my heart,” Thompson said. “These kids should not be shunned or shamed when they go to lunch.”
He went onto the campus and paid the bill of the student he mentored – and that was just the beginning.
“I found out this was a problem, not just in my district but in every school district,” he said. “I believe that if you want to change the world, you start by changing what’s outside your window.”
After helping a few more schools in the Spring Branch district, Thompson decided to expand his reach.
He established an organization to help – Feed the Future Forward – and then approached Cy-Fair ISD and started brainstorming with Crawford and Matt Morgan, the assistant superintendent of support services.
“In food service, it’s the toughest thing to not feed a kid, because that’s what we’re here to do,” Crawford said. “We met with Kenny, and he was so passionate about this. You could tell his heart was in it. We developed a game plan.”
Instead of helping individual schools, a central account was created to serve all district schools – the Lunch Super Hero account.
District partner Cy-Hope, a nonprofit whose mission is to make life better for students in Cy-Fair, volunteered to facilitate donation efforts.
“Kenny started it, Cy-Hope stepped up and our administration supported us,” Crawford added. “They said that this was the right thing to do, and that we should go for it.”
The Cy-Fair School Food Service Association, an organization for school nutrition employees, also got on board, and all of the entities involved gathered to unveil the CFISD Lunch Super Hero account in April.
Thompson offered to kick off the account with a $1,000 donation.
The food service association followed suit, making a $2,000 donation provided by president Diana Silva.
Crawford said the account will make it possible for the district to help students who have exceeded the credit on their accounts.
“It’s a national problem, but no one on a national level is attacking the problem,” he said. “Locally I think we’ve come up with a solution that we be sustainable. In Cy-Fair, we’re making sure that no kid is ever put in a position where they won’t get a proper meal.”
Now the district is busy raising more funds to deposit into the account.
“It’s going to take some fundraising; it’s going to take some work,” Crawford said. “But it can be done, and we’re going to do it.”
Crawford and Thompson hope their efforts will inspire similar programs in other districts.
“Everybody I talk to knows this is a problem and knows it needs to be fixed,” Thompson said. “We need to take care of our kids in Texas. If we can be a model as a state, we can hopefully eliminate this around the country.”
Want to help?
Donate to the Lunch Super Hero account: Go to www.cfisd.net/dept2/food/LunchHero.htm. Donors will follow a link to the Cy-Hope donation form, where they can specify their donation amount under the “Provide lunch for Super Heroes” field.
By Lindsay Peyton, Houston Chronicle
THANK YOU “WIZARD OF OZ” CAST AND CREW!
Feed the Future Forward would like to thank the cast and crew of the national tour of the “Wizard of Oz.” From March 4th-16th, the magnificent cast and crew of the show entertained the City of Houston and found it in their hearts to help support our cause. They raised $576 to help feed hot lunches to the needy students in our area. You guys rock! And, we thank you!
Happy Anniversary! A milestone has been reached!
It’s been exactly 4 weeks since our founder, Kenny Thompson, took care of the 1st school which started this great movement. With the generous gifts from the community and our nation, we have reached a milestone. As of March 3rd, Feed the Future Forward has taken care of more than 1,000 kids’ negative lunch accounts. We have been to 11 different schools in 5 different districts around the greater Houston area. We have spent nearly $7,200. We want to sincerely thank those angels who have made this possible! Our promise is to keep helping the children. Lunch Angel funds are being set up at schools to help eliminate the alternative lunches altogether. Districts are looking at their own policies and procedures to better feed their students. We are extremely proud of the changes since our story broke. We get the feeling that a new lunch program is in the works. We pray that some day all schools will have eliminated the alternative lunch programs. All for lunch, lunch for All!
Donations made on the Feed the Future Forward website have allowed Thompson to piggyback off his initial donation of $465 to Spring Branch ISD’s Valley Oaks Elementary School on Feb. 3. He has since paid off negative lunch balances at:
five schools in Spring Branch ISD on Feb. 10 ($3,338);
Aldine ISD’s Aldine Middle School on Feb. 14 ($954.02);
Houston ISD’s Sinclair Elementary School on Feb. 17 ($147.10); and
Katy ISD’s Sundown Elementary School on Feb. 17 ($627.91).
When combined with the donation to Horne on Monday, the combined effort from Feed the Future is $6,497.70 benefiting approximately 900 students in greater Houston in less than a month.
On February 17th, Kenny and FTFF visited a Houston ISD school, Sinclair Elementary. Lunch balances were paid off 41 children for a total of $147.10. The principal, teachers, and its lunch staff we very welcoming and happy to have FTFF there to help their kids!
On the same day we also visited a Katy ISD school, Sundown Elementary. The negative lunch balances were paid for a total of $627.91!
Sundown Elementary and the Katy ISD Food Service Department welcomed Mr. Kenny Thompson, Feed The Future Forward, to our school this Monday morning. Mr. Thompson presented a check to the Katy ISD Food Service Department which will be used to pay all of Sundown Elementary students’ outstanding lunch balances.
Steven B Pustejovsky
Principal – Sundown Elementary
Happy Valentines Day!
On February 14th Kenny Thompson and Feed the Future Forward went to Aldine ISD and took care of Aldine Middle School, one of the most needy schools in the district. $954.02 was paid in negative lunch balances and took care of over 100 kids. Kenny was welcomed by the principal and the lunch staff. Fox 26 News showed up at the school and the story aired on the 5 o’clock news.