A local teenager is about to take a bite out of her school's student lunch debt, thanks to her bold new initiative.

Credit - Christopher Vangellow
Credit - Christopher Vangellow

Emma Falkenmeyer, an incoming senior at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School, is not your average student. She spends her free time organizing fundraising events to help pay off her school system's student meal debt.

Falkenmeyer recently launched School Lunch Pals and is working hard to meet her 2023 fundraising goal. All proceeds go directly to the VVS Food Services Department.

Her mother, Katie Burns Falkenmeyer, announced in February that the VVS school system's current student lunch debt is over $25,000. It is likely that number has only grown in the past few months.

Falkenmeyer's initiative comes at a critical time

Student lunch debt isn't just a rising problem across the country, it's deeply affecting communities right here in New York State.

Students Using Fingerprints to Buy Lunch
Photo Credit - William Thomas Cain / Getty Images

Health School Meals for All and Hunger Solutions New York looked into our state's situation and the numbers were unsettling.

In all, 126 schools were surveyed across the state and 86.7% of them were struggling with meal debt. They face approximately $1.4 million in outstanding costs.

It also should be noted that a majority of the schools grappling with student lunch debt came from our state's rural and suburban areas.

The survey also reported the leading cause of this mounting debt was families being unable to pay for school lunch.

Shaping the narrative

Falkenmeyer understands families struggling to afford school meals are likely feeling embarrassed and stressed, which is why she created School Lunch Pals in the first place. She wants to alleviate their burden, so no child goes hungry or feels ashamed about their family situation.

Fatty Foods Under Attack In Texas Schools
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She also wanted to help educate the VVS community on this delicate issue. So far, it seems she has achieved exactly that.

Falkenmeyer has detailed how the VVS community responded to her call to action on n the School Lunch Pals Facebook page. She appears optimistic her goal will be reached.

Already, she has executed several successful fundraisers, such as the Cotton Candy for a Cause Campaigns in March and April. Now that school is out for the summer, more events can be expected.

Elementary Pupils Enjoying Healthy Lunch In Cafeteria

How you can help

Aside from showing up at one of her fundraisers, you can help Falkenmeyer by writing a check out to the VVS General Fund and putting Student Lunch debt as the memo. Those checks can be mailed to the School Lunch Pals at PO Box 255 in Sherrill, New York.

If checks aren't your thing, the initiative also has Venmo and can be found under the username @SchoolLunchPals.

A website is forthcoming.

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