Like many things these days, it started on Facebook. St. Charles County mom Jenna West read an online story about a Pennsylvania cafeteria worker who quit her job after she was required to take a hot lunch away from a student who had fallen behind on payment.
“It struck a chord with me,” said West. “It broke my heart.”
West reached for her phone to call her son’s elementary school, Harvest Ridge Elementary. School counselor Greg Vest took the call.
“It affected her in such a way that she wanted to know ‘Is this happening at my kid’s school?’ and ‘What can I do about it?’” said Vest.
The explanation West received caused her to take action.
“Our school’s policy is that if a kid is negative $15 dollars in their account, they will start to get a SunButter sandwich, which is a fake peanut butter sandwich,” said West. “Why should they have to do the walk of shame? Why should they have to walk around with SumButter sandwich when everyone else is getting pizzas and hamburgers?”
West wants every child to have a hot school lunch, so she went back to Facebook where friends and strangers agreed and offered to donate.
“Everyone jumped at the chance to help,” said West. “I turned in $230 dollars on Monday to Mr. Vest. “
“In many cases, the policies that are in place for school districts or for specific buildings are not intended to create stigma. They’re not intended to harm,” said Vest. “It’s just that nobody ever thought before what the potential consequences might be.”
West said more donations are on the way, and the school’s principal praised West’s actions.
“It’s very much an example of how one person can make a difference, or how one person can see a need,” said Dr. Natalie DeWeese, who said more than 200 Harvest Ridge students receive free or reduced cost lunches.
“I want to raise awareness to this issue,” said West. “I think we need to do better as a community, we need to do better as a state, we need to do better as a nation.”
To contact Jenna West, email firstname.lastname@example.org