Jeffrey Lew never wants a child to be shamed on the school cafeteria line again. That's why the Seattle dad of three has been hard at work fundraising, with one goal in mind: to pay down the school lunch debt of every student in the state of Washington. Today.com reports that Lew first became aware of the "school lunch shaming" issue—in which kids who owe money on their lunch accounts either get stuck with a cold lunch instead of a hot one, or don't get a lunch at all—after he read a "devastating" story online about it. "It boggles my mind that a child can accrue a debt at school," he says, noting he decided to take action. First he took care of the nearly $100 communal debt at his own son's school; then he started a GoFundMe to raise money to take care of the $20,000 owed throughout the Seattle Public Schools district.
Lew raised more than $50,000 and took his efforts further, paying off more than $100,000 in five school districts across the state. He also co-founded LunchDebt.org and started a new GoFundMe to wipe out the entire state's lunch debt, with a more ambitious goal of $650,000. Lew says he wants "universal lunches" in schools, noting how inmates are guaranteed three squares a day, but not kids. "These are innocent little children [who] should only worry about studying and doing their best, not worrying if they will go hungry," he tells Today.com. Lew's efforts are also resonating with the younger set in neighboring states: KHQ reports on 6-year-old Amiah Van Hill, an Idahoan inspired by Lew's work who started a lemonade stand to help pay the debt in Coeur d'Alene schools. "It makes me feel happy," Amiah says of the nearly $1,500 she's raised so far. (One state has outlawed "lunch shaming.")