LeanStream Lunch Fund

A screenshot of a recent LeanStream project shows the "Student Meal Benevolence Fund" has been fully funded by 48 donors in less than two week.

In early October, some people in the community became concerned upon finding out that many students at Dothan Preparatory Academy were not eating lunch.

Marsha Johnson spoke out and told others about what she felt were inequitable circumstances.

Known by many as DJ LastLaff, Brandon Townsend took it upon himself to meet with the Child Nutrition Program director and other Dothan City Schools administrators to figure out a way for businesses and people in the community to help balance the scales.

They were tasked with trying to figure out a way to pay for students’ meals without creating a dependency on the system to foot the bill.

Officials decided to stop serving “alternative lunches,” which are usually either crackers and peanut butter or peanut-butter sandwiches, and begin serving regular meals to those who didn’t bring payment with them. The new procedure saves students the embarrassment of receiving an alternative meal if they can’t afford one.

Officials also decided to create a rolling account that would absorb the debt in the delinquent accounts at the end of the school year — more than $1,500 at the time the fund was created Oct. 23 — while still trying to collect monies owed until that time.

Through a recent fortuitous partnership with LeanStream, crowdfunding software licensed by the board, the central office posted the “need” with a goal to raise $2,000 by the end of the school year.

In less than two weeks, supporters made their goal, giving families of students who don’t make the benchmark income for a free lunch cause to sigh with relief.

After all, between bullying and studying and life at home, which for some may not feel like home, children shouldn’t have to worry about getting their next meal at a place they are required to attend.

The amount of money raised may seem modest to some, but the fund could pay for anywhere between 770 to 5,000 meals, depending on the number of reduced- and full-price breakfasts and lunches.

The swift nature of the effort is an example of how a spark can set a fire, as Townsend has said.

Dothan City Schools already has another “need” posted on its LeanStream account called “Faine’s Be Rich” project.

Faine Elementary School, which last year had the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students, has a variety of needs, including supplies, uniforms, teacher treats, field trips and its new incentive program, the “Bulldog Buck Store.” Its fundraising goal is $10,000.

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Chalk Talk, an education notebook compiled by education beat reporter Sable Riley, appears each weekend in the Dothan Eagle and at dothaneagle.com.

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