2 teens who began School Lunch Fairy look to help NH school district with $15K in debt
LONDONDERRY — Two Florida teens are looking to help out the Londonderry School District after learning from NH1 News that students accrued over $15,000 in lunch debt this past school year.
Christian Cordon-Cano and Bernardo Hasbach, who are both 17-years-old, created the School Lunch Fairy program after Cordon-Cano learned about lunch shaming — the act of singling out children who are unable to pay for their meals — while listening to the radio with his dad.
"I'm privileged enough to have a good lunch every day; it's shocking to me that other kids don't receive that," Cordon-Cano said.
Cordon-Cano called up his long-time friend Hasbach to help him start a program that ensured students got a decent school lunch everyday. They launched the School Lunch Fairy around March. So far, they have raised $12,000 and made donations to eight school districts in six states including California, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, New Jersey and Washington. Now they are looking to expand their help to the Londonderry School District as administrators consider a new policy that could possibly lead to lunch shaming.
Peter Curro, the school district's business administrator, plans to propose a policy to the school board in September that would prevent eighth- or 12th-graders with a negative balance from participating in some non-academic or non-curriculum end-of-the-school-year activities such as graduation, senior week and the eighth-grade dance. Curro said that taking away various activities for students who either do not pay their debt in full or who do not get pardoned by an administrator "avoids any student embarrassment in the presence of other students."
Currently, overdue balances from students who either graduate from Londonderry High School or who transfer to another school district get covered by the operating budget.
"We feel the word is getting out that you 'don't have to pay for lunch' and the school district will provide a full lunch no matter what the student balance is," Curro had wrote in a memo to Superintendent Scott Laliberte.
Administrators see their proposed policy as the best solution to help alleviate the debt. Other solutions would include letting the debt climb and just having the operating budget pay for it or give students an alternate meal when they reach a certain negative balance — typically consisting of a SunButter and jelly sandwich, a milk and fruit.
Cordon-Cano hopes to help administrators avoid any form of lunch shaming that may come from a new policy by providing the school district with funding.
"We'll be willing to donate as much as we can," Cordon-Cano said.
Cordon-Cano and Hasbach prefer that school districts they donate to set up "emergency lunch funds" for students who do not have money that day for their meal instead of paying down debt, but said that once the school district receives the donation, they are able to allocate the money in whatever way will benefit students a part of the school lunch program.
"We keep looking for opportunities to inspire people across the country to stand up against lunch shaming and to donate to our cause," the School Lunch Fairy website reads. Donations can be made to the School Lunch Fairy here.
Curro said he plans on looking into this program more before moving forward with a possible donation, but did add that he is hesitant.
"There's a difference between families who can't afford the lunch and families who just didn't want to pay for the lunch," Curro said.
Curro plans on reaching out to Cordon-Cano to see if having the School Lunch Fairy donate makes sense for both of them.