A school district in Rhode Island made national headlines when it announced earlier this month that students who had outstanding lunch debt would only be served cold sun butter and jelly sandwiches. Now, Chobani is stepping in to pay nearly $50,000 of the total owed to ensure every child receives a healthy lunch.
“The last thing that kids should worry about today is if there’s a warm lunch for them at school—and the shame they might feel if their classmates realize they can’t afford a school lunch,” the yogurt company wrote in a press release.
It’s a sentiment that Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya echoed on social media. “As a parent, news of Warwick Public Schools breaks my heart,” he tweeted on May 9. “Every child should have access to natural, nutritious & delicious food, so Chobani is doing our small part to help pay this debt.”
The company is paying $47,650 of the $77,000 that is currently owed among 1,653 Warwick families. While the school district defended its policy by claiming that many of the accounts were not from families who had financial troubles, people still accused the school of lunch shaming.
And Chobani isn’t the only one helping out. Not only have local restaurants and shops pitched in but a GoFundMe page has also raised over $49,000 and CBS pledged a $40,000 donation. “It just continues to give us hope in the world that there are a lot of good people out there,” Mayor Joseph Solomon told the Providence Journal. “A lot of people doing good things.”
All of the donations—and the public concern—paid off in more ways than one. Last week, the school district announced it would change its policy to “allow students their choice of lunch regardless of their account status.” In a statement to CNN, Karen Bachus, chairwoman of the Warwick School Committee, explained, “This will prevent any emotional upset for our students and make certain that all of our students receive at least one nutritious meal every day at school.”
business must do its part.. our responsibility as members of community. who will join us? pic.twitter.com/6HOTjDE4CX
— Hamdi Ulukaya (@hamdiulukaya) May 9, 2019