School district that turned down donation will accept offer to pay off lunch debt

School district to accept offer to pay lunch debts

Last Updated Jul 24, 2019 8:54 PM EDT

Help is on the way for kids who could not afford school lunch at a Pennsylvania school district. Multiple sources — including a school administrator — told CBS News the Wyoming Valley West School District decided to accept donations after it turned down a money from a Philadelphia businessman.

Earlier this week, Todd Carmichael, the CEO of La Colombe Coffee, offered the district $22,000 to pay off the debt. 

The school district had sent letters to 40 families who owed at least $10 for their kids' lunches and it threatened to put the kids in foster care if their parents didn't pay, CBS Scranton affiliate WYOU-TV reported.

"Your child has been sent to school everyday without money and without breakfast and/or lunch," the letter said. "This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition and you can be sent to Dependency Court for neglecting your child's right to food."

The letter said the children could be at risk of being placed in foster care if the parents go to court. It asks parents to pay the debt in order to avoid being reported to authorities.

School lunch debts are affecting families across the country and have recently gained national attention. In May, after a Rhode Island school district reversed its decision to start serving cold sandwiches instead of hot lunches to students whose families owe lunch money, Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya offered to pay off their debts. And in June, a 9-year-old boy in Napa, California, used his allowance to pay off classmates' school lunch debts.

It's even becoming an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.

"'School lunch debt' should not exist in the wealthiest country in the history of the world," Bernie Sanders tweeted. "When we are in the White House, we are going to provide year-round, free universal school meals."

Sophie Lewis and Nikki Battiste contributed to this report.