Family & Parenting

Chobani Paid Off Almost $50,000 Of Lunch Debt For Students At Rhode Island School District

The CEO said, "For every child, access to naturally nutritious and delicious food should be a right, not a privilege."

Yogurt company Chobani just donated $47,650 to pay off school lunch debt for students in a Warwick, Rhode Island, school district.

The generous move comes in the wake of a controversy that gained national attention when the district opted to serve students who owed lunch money cold sandwiches in lieu of a hot meal.

In a Facebook post on May 5, the district explained that “if money is owed on a paid, free or reduced lunch account, a sun butter and jelly sandwich will be given as the lunch choice until the balance owed is paid in full or a payment plan is set up through the food service office.”

Although the district has since reversed its decision after widespread pushback by parents and those in the community, Chobani was inspired to rectify the problem on behalf of the students.

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CBS News reports that Warwick’s mayoral office accepted the donation, according to a Chobani spokesperson.

Added to funds from the community, including multiple GoFundMe campaigns — one of which has also raised more than $56,000 for the cause — the $77,000 school lunch debt looks like it will be totally covered!

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Chobani CEO and founder Hamdi Ulukaya took to Twitter to explain his passion surrounding this issue. “As a parent, news of #WarwickPublicSchools breaks my heart,” he wrote:

The company released a statement about the move, where Ylukaya elaborates.

“For every child, access to naturally nutritious and delicious food should be a right, not a privilege,” Ylukaya said. “When our children are strong, our families are stronger. And when our families are strong, our communities are stronger. Business can and must do its part to solve the hunger crisis in America and do its part in the communities they call home.”

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In the tweet, the CEO also calls on other business owners to lend a helping hand in the cause.

As he wrote, “Business must do its part … our responsibility as members of community. Who will join us?”

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Local businesses in Warwick had indeed stepped up to do their part but reported being turned down by school district officials because partial donations were difficult to distribute equally.

Angelica Penta owns two restaurants in the area, and her son attends school in the district. She had raised $13,000 in donations to help pay down the debt owed. Now, she plans to start a nonprofit organization to help other cities and towns facing a similar problem.

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The Warwick Public Schools’ recent Facebook statement clarifying the district’s position notes they will now be accepting donations and applying them in “an equitable fashion.”

In fact, the district posted a donation form so that others can help.