Teacher asks for help with student lunch debt, gets $30k

A Utah teacher went viral after requesting help clearing student lunch debt

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One teacher in Utah is making sure children in his school don’t go hungry because of unpaid lunch debt.

With school lunch debt a concern all around the country, one teacher took to social media to ask for a little help. On January 30, middle school teacher Garrett Jones posted a video on TikTok, noting, “If 2,673 Venmo’d me $1 I could pay the outstanding lunch fees of every student in my school.”

While Garrett was hoping to raise a few thousand dollars, the video went viral — it now has about 5.4 million views — and supporters donated more than $30,000.

“I thought best case scenario, we maybe get a couple of hundred bucks and be able to help a couple of students, and even that would have been awesome,” Jones told Good Morning America.

About 1.5 million students in the U.S. can’t afford their lunches, and their “meal debt” totals about $262 million a year, according to Education Data.

“I think the fear of hearing you have a balance ... that is just terrifying for a middle schooler,” Jones, who teaches at Rocky Mountain Middle School, explained to Good Morning America.

According to the Feeding America organization, one in five food-insecure children live in a home that is ineligible for free or reduced lunches.

@cgj205

Kids can’t learn if they’re hungry and don’t deserve to be handed a bill for lunch at a place they have to be. School lunch should be free. #teachersoftiktok #teacher #schoollunch #middleschool #elementaryschool #highschool

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Jones, who goes by @cgj205 on TikTok, uses his platform to share his life as a teacher, with posts about games and videos of his students making fun of a new haircut.

“On a higher level, we can reach out to our representatives and say, ‘Hey, we support this. This is a good use of our tax dollars. We should feed our students and make sure at the very least when they’re going into school … we can guarantee that they had a good meal.”

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