MASON CITY, Iowa - We've touched on this topic before - lunch debt is a real problem in public schools.
Wendy Martinez knows all too well about the struggle to make ends meet when she was a single mom, and has seen the need grow recently.
"It's hard for families. We've got a lot of single parents, one income working, and I think that's been a big contributor...my kids have been on free and reduced lunch when they were way younger. I know what that feels like."
And she's concerned that lunch debt may result in children going hungry.
"You see posts, you see things on the news about students not being able to have their lunch, or the debt ratios are really high in schools."
In 2019, Mason City Schools had a negative lunch balance of almost $10,000. Fortunately, some individuals and groups are wanting to chip away at that deficit, and last year, contributed $1,600 worth of donations to pay that down. One such group, the Motorcycle Safety & Awareness Association, donated $400 that was collected from rides they held throughout the year. Martinez, a member of the group, is wanting to pay it forward.
"Anytime you can do something for somebody that's helped you is a great thing. It's what I live by anyway with all the things I work on anyway."
Sarah Mariner is the District Supervisor of Lunch Services.
"I think it's something that not a lot of people necessarily think about, that kids have to pay for their lunches at school. Having those people step up and making that chain effect now...it's pretty awesome."
For the record, no hungry child will be denied lunch at Mason City Schools; students are provided a meal regardless of standing debt.
If you would like to donate, donations can be given to the district's business office at 1515 S. Pennsylvania, or a school office. You can designate a building or a grade you would like your donation to go to, if you wish.