Over the past three years Richmond Hill resident Sara Maltby and fellow members of the running club SARC have raised about $11,000 to help pay lunch money owed by students to Bryan County Schools.
They’ve done it through yard sales, through the selling of craft items and running singlets, anything to make money.
Now Maltby, whose effort led the district to set up a special account and accept donations over the telephone or in person, said she hopes school officials will make it easier for others to chip in as well by setting up a way to make donations online.
The idea of an web portal of some sort might work, Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher said.
“We’ll be more than happy to look into it,” he said, while calling the impact of SARC’s donations “significant.”
“It’s amazing,” Brooksher said. “Their continued support in that area has really been powerful.”
Maltby said she learned about the lunch debt when her debit card was renewed three years ago and her son’s lunch account, which auto-renewed and was linked to her old card, went into the red.
Maltby investigated and learned there were thousands of dollars in “lunch debt,” which she believes leaves those children either unfed or getting snacks instead of the full meals.
And with some children relying on the district for their only meals of the day, the belief that some children might be doing without drives her to continue fundraising, she said.
“I’ve run into so many people over the years who say it’s not our responsibility, it’s the parents’ responsibility,” Maltby said. “That’s not what this is about. It’s a community’s responsibility to take care of their own. These kids are our future and our responsibility as a community.”
School officials, meanwhile, dispute the claim that students go unfed if their lunch debt isn’t paid.
“The bottom line is no child will go hungry in Bryan County Schools,” Brooksher said.
School Board Chairwoman Amy Perkins-Murphy said in an email that “Bryan County Schools is committed to all of our students and no child in Bryan County Schools will ever go hungry. Families experiencing a need should feel free to contact our school nutrition department regarding the Free and Reduced Lunch application. All inquiries and applications are processed quickly at any time during the school year.”
And, just as Brooksher did, Perkins-Murphy praises Maltby, whose fundraising efforts led the district to set up a special account where donations can bemade telephonically. “Sara Maltby is a great example of someone who resolves to make a positive impact in our community,” Perkins-Murphy said. “She exemplifies the best of Bryan County. Sara feels compelled to work towards reducing unpaid school lunch debts and leverages her passion and talent for running to help our students and families. Her passion and gifts are greatly appreciated.”
Perkins-Murphy said she, too, likes the idea of an online portal for those who want to donate online: “Bryan County Schools strives to support our students in multifaceted ways,” she said. “We undoubtedly have the most talented educators and administrators. However, we always appreciate great ideas from the community and welcome collaborations. The Board is supportive of exploring the option of helping families pay off school lunch debts via contributions through our online portals.”
It’s perhaps worth nothing that donations to Bryan County Schools come at a rapid clip, from parent teacher groups, booster clubs and more.
The school board monthly approves a list of donations to various schools for academic and athletic reasons, and those donations add up to tens of thousands of dollars. In one month in 2018, the school board approved more than $30,000 in donations for everything from classroom supplies to playground equipment.
In the meantime, to donate to the food services unpaid lunch debt fund call Charlene Phillips at 912-459-5121.