Sioux City Schools Foundation, restaurants team to reduce lunch debt

August 29, 2018
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Lunch time is often busy at Irving Elementary School. But paying for it can be stressful for many struggling families. Partnering up with area restaurants, the Sioux City Public Schools Foundation will be holding a fundraiser to help offset student lunch debt. Participating restaurants will donate 30 percent of their foodsales 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5.

SIOUX CITY -- On Sept. 5, diners will be able to help the Sioux City Public Schools Foundation offset student lunch debt just by having dinner at a favorite restaurant.

“Many families struggle with delinquent school lunch accounts,” foundation executive director Kari Treinen said. “Our aim is to help these families become debt-free at the start of the school year.”

Participating restaurants will be donating 30 percent of dinner sales, made between 5 to 10 p.m., Sept. 5. It will be going toward the foundation’s 30/30 Project to support Sioux City Community School District students.

A list of participating restaurants may be found at www.scpsf.org/thirty.php.

According to University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, children raised in lower income families are exposed to 30 million fewer words --through speech, reading and being read to -- by the time they turned 3 than children raised in more affluent families.

“This 30 million word gap can totally foreshadow how well a student does in school,” Treinen said. “These kids are already coming into kindergarten at a disadvantage.”

The reasons for this wide gap may be due to parents working more than one job or in household where English is not the primary language.

However, Sioux City Community School School District communications director Mandie Mayo said delinquent lunch fees can also prove to be a hardship for some families that are already struggling to make ends meet.

“Currently, the school district has seven elementary schools (Hunt, Irving, Irving Annex, Liberty, Loess Hills, Riverside and Unity), which provide free lunches for 100 percent of their students,” she said.

Mayo added that two-thirds of the school district’s students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

That means nearly 6,000 Sioux City students face food insecurity at home.

“We will always feed a hungry student,” she said. “This initiative is simply a way to ease the burden of struggling families who may not qualify for free or reduced lunch.”

It also stands to reason that a well-fed child will do better in school, said Treinen.

“We have to do something that addresses this literacy gap,” she said. “We also need to get the entire community involved.”

And what can be better than an initiative that allows you to dine at a favorite restaurant while helping to ease the burden placed on struggling families?

“That’s the nice aspect,” Mayo said. “You go out for dinner while helping Sioux City families with student lunch debt.”

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