BLUE ASH, Ohio — It’s a fresh start for Sycamore Community Schools students.
A Blue Ash business is donating thousands of dollars to pay off student lunch debt across the district. It’s a generous gesture, but the circumstances illustrate that food insecurity is a growing concern in the Tri-State.
As students at E.H. Greene Intermediate School lined up for lunch of chicken and waffles Thursday, they didn’t have to worry about how to pay for it.
“We were so grateful that they could make that donation for us,” said Kelsey Warren, Child Nutrition and Wellness Director for Sycamore Community Schools. “It makes such a big difference, especially for kids who maybe could not pay for the school lunch.”
InfoTrust, a Blue Ash-based analytics and tech company, donated more than $5,500 to pay off all overdue lunch balances in the district and provide some extra money to help families who might struggle to pay for lunch going forward. Seventeen percent of students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch, which makes a donation like this even more important.
“This is very helpful for families who maybe can’t afford to pay for all three meals, or pack their student’s lunch and breakfast,” Warren said. “It still gives them an opportunity to have a meal with all their classmates.”
No matter the lunch debt, every student at Sycamore Schools will be fed. But the reality in Hamilton County is more and more families are looking for help to put enough food on the table.
Kurt Reiber, President and CEO of the Freestore Foodbank, said his organization distributed 24% more meals in the last fiscal year (33.8 million) than the previous year (27.3 million).
The Freestore Foodbank serves 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. It includes a culinary job-training program that helps provide around 1,000 hot meals for kids after school. It also partners with 36 different schools to provide a free food pantry to students and families on site.
Reiber said in-school meals and nutrition are crucial for many families in the Tri-State.
“These students need to eat, because we talk about a hungry child can’t learn and an uneducated adult can’t earn,” Reiber said.