Local man raises money to pay off students' meal debts

'There's something about a hungry child that bothers me.'

AMHERST COUNTY, Va. – A man from Amherst County has raised thousands of dollars for children in his hometown.

The stories he heard about kids across the country getting cold meals for not being able to pay for their school's hot lunches didn't sit well with Dustin Wright, who's a new father of three.

"There's something about a hungry child that bothers me," Wright said. "We live in a country where you can, we throw away food because we produce so much of it and if it's even close to an expiration date. So it's ridiculous that anyone's hungry."

He said he wanted to help out kids in his hometown who may be facing the same problem.

The Amherst County native started a fundraiser on Facebook, hoping to raise $1,000 to pay off students' unpaid cafeteria balances in the county's public schools.

"I passed that in five hours. I wasn't expecting it. Honestly even when I put $1,000, shooting for the stars, I was, like, 'This is ridiculous.' I kept upping the goal," Wright said.

Within a matter of days, he raised $7,676 -- more than enough to cover all the accrued meal debt at every school.

The fundraiser was so successful that a few hundred dollars are left over, so Wright is talking with the schools to see if they can use the money to buy caps and gowns for students who can't afford them.

Child nutrition supervisor Kim Klein said kids who don't have enough money in their accounts always get the same meals as every other student and the kids don't face any repercussions if they can't pay.

"We just feed them. That's all we can do. It's not the child's fault or responsibility for the money, so we feed them, no matter what," Klein said.

If their debt never gets paid, eventually, the money has to come out of the school district's general fund.

More than half of all students qualify for free or reduced meals. In some cases, it's the only meal they get all day.

Wright said he is thinking of making the fundraiser an annual one because, unfortunately, these families' debts will keep growing.

But for now, the debt is one less thing on their plates.


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