After coming across a painful post about how students were denied lunch at schools because of debt, Adam Levy decided to take action when local government didn't.
Across the United States, students of all ages are unable to attend classes or access lunch at recess - simply because they have not paid off their school lunch debts. Instead of addressing the systemic reasons behind the delayed payments (or why we expect families to pay for lunch at public schools in the first place), school districts and local government bodies have sadly chosen to allow the mechanism of the broken public school system control who eats and learns. Thankfully, while state legislatures work out the kinks in our flawed institutions, local superheroes have decided to step in and come to the rescue. One such hero is Andrew Levy, a real estate agent based in Jupiter, Florida. When he came across a list of students crippled by school lunch debt, he decided to pay off every last penny, CNN reports.
It all started with a post uploaded to social media platform Facebook. Angie Vyas-Knight, the administrator of the "Jupiter Mamas" Facebook group, was angered when she learned children across America were unable to purchase lunch at school due to debt. After she read national news about the pervasive problem, she wondered if students at her local school district were also struggling with the same concerns. Therefore, she asked the Palm Beach County school board for her district's statistics on the matter.
She learned that students across nine schools in the district had essentially "racked up" $944.34 in debt, for simply eating lunch at school. Vyas-Knight thus set out to spread awareness about the issue, taking to Facebook to post a list of what was owed. A few weeks later, Jupiter resident Levy came across the list and immediately decided that he wanted to do something about it. Knowing fully well that the students would be forced to resort to eating a plain cheese sandwich or not eating at all, he paid off the balance for the pupils - all 400 of them.
The philanthropist told CNN affiliate WPEC, "These children that were in debt were going to either not eat or they would get just cheese sandwiches and I thought that’s crazy. I thought you know something? If for a modest sum I could make that change, I’m gonna do it." He then swiftly met with the district and paid off the outstanding debt. However, he isn't stopping there. Now, Levy's got even bigger plans in mind. He affirmed, "Every quarter, I’m going to do either a GoFundMe page or a fundraising page that can raise money every quarter, so lunch debt never accumulates so that children never have to worry about a hot meal and parents never have to worry about paying the bill."
And he won't be alone either. When he initially posted about paying off the lunch debts, dozens of people got in touch with him to see how they could chip in and help out too. He estimated that about 200 people had volunteered to pitch in. That's when Levy realized that he had started a chain reaction of kindness and selflessness. He shared, "I even have had some clients over the past 48 hours say, 'You know something? I want to help, I want to give too.'" Through the generous actions of others, students across Palm Beach County will be able to attend classes or eat lunch once again. Nonetheless, there is more work to be done. Though the real estate agent's contributions made a meaningful impact in Jupiter, there is about $51,000 of debt for over 180,000 enrolled students remaining. If you'd like to help out, you can visit the district website.