Currently, many children who cannot afford a proper meal are defined as food insecure. This means reliable access to food. Compounding the issue is many who owe school meal debt are part of families who earn too much to be considered for free or reduced lunch but also earn too little to afford regular school meals.
According to the Education Data Initiative report, the national public school meal debt is $262 million a year. Some of the report highlights included:
- 30.4 million students can’t afford their school meals.
- The average meal debt per child is $180.6 yearly.
- 68.8% of surveyed schools had unpaid student meal debt.
- 96% of surveyed school districts reported an annual increase in students who couldn’t afford meals.
In a remarkable collaboration that embodies the spirit of giving back, the Arby’s Foundation has teamed up with acclaimed comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish to tackle this urgent issue.
With a shared commitment to uplifting children and communities, this partnership aims to make a significant difference in the lives of families nationwide by donating $1 million to alleviate the burden of school lunch debt. The impact of this initiative is poised to echo far beyond financial relief, offering hope and nourishment to the young minds that represent our future.
The Journey Begins in Boardman, Ohio
This endeavor begins in Boardman, Ohio, where Arby’s was founded in 1964. A heartfelt homage to the roots of the iconic Arby’s brand, the foundation seeks to uplift the community that ignited its inception. Beyond this sincere tribute, the Arby’s Foundation extends its generosity nationwide, inviting school officials to apply for donations to relieve school lunch debt through foundation.arbys.com/lunchdebt.
“The Arby’s Foundation was prompted to take on the issue of school lunch debt as we look for ways to fuel children and their dreams as a main pillar of our mission,” said Rita Patel, the Brand President of Arby’s. “Since the pandemic-era universal free lunch program expires in the 2022-2023 school year, more and more children struggle to afford their meals at school.”
Patel explained, “Our primary goals are to relieve school lunch debt and help students and their families during the back-to-school season. By partnering with Tiffany Haddish and donating $1 million, we aim to impact communities nationwide, starting with our hometown of Boardman, Ohio, and expanding to other schools through applications on our website.
Ms. Patel explained that Tiffany Haddish was an ideal partner for this collaboration. Haddish has a genuine passion for supporting youth and her She Ready Foundation, which empowers, supports, and encourages children living in the foster care system.
“I believe in the power of positively impacting the lives of children and families,” states Tiffany Haddish, renowned for her comedic talent and dedication to social causes. “I come from humble beginnings and understand families’ challenges when trying to provide for their children. This collaboration means a lot to me personally. It’s an opportunity for me to use my platform and resources to address an issue that affects children’s well-being and education.”
A Timely Response to a Growing Need
As the expiration of the pandemic-era universal free lunch program loomed in the 2022-2023 school year, the number of students receiving free lunches decreased by about a third. This drop to around 18.6 million students in October 2022 reflects several factors, such as eligibility thresholds, awareness gaps, and reduced program participation. According to Education Data, over 30 million students struggle to afford meals. This initiative emerges as a response to the pressing need to alleviate the financial strain on families and ensure that children can access nourishing meals without impediment.
Making a Difference, One Meal at a Time
As the Arby’s Foundation and Tiffany Haddish join forces, they exemplify the potential of partnership to catalyze positive change. The initiative addresses the immediate need for relief from school lunch debt and underscores the importance of community support and nurturing dreams. To support this program and contribute to the broader cause of childhood hunger, consider spreading awareness, donating to the Arby’s Foundation, volunteering at local food banks, and advocating for policies that ensure every child has access to nourishment and the opportunity to thrive.
As for advice for the families and children in this situation, Ms. Haddish shared, “I want to offer my support and let you know that you are not alone. It’s okay to reach out for help when you need it. There are community resources, food banks, and organizations like the Arby’s Foundation that are dedicated to assisting.”