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Iredell County moms raise thousands to pay school lunch debt

Jean Foster and Emily Kiral are working to raise $30,000 to pay down student lunch debt owed at Iredell-Statesville Schools.

Two Iredell County moms have come together to pay down more than $30,000 in student lunch debt at the Iredell-Statesville School District.

Emily Kiral, a deaf mom of three, said she had the idea first, and, after meeting Jean Foster, a mom of two, on Facebook, it took off.

"Emily posted a meme in a group that we’re in together that said, 'Don’t buy the coffee for the car behind you at the Starbucks,'" Foster said, "'Go ahead and call a school and pay for the kid’s lunch.'"

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They started with one school and, "…within an hour we had raised over $2,000." Foster said.

Now, they're working to help the entire district by starting an online fundraiser.

It's great news, Jada Jonas, a district spokesperson, said, after a pandemic pause on school lunch payments ended, leading to a surge in debt.

"We're thankful," Jonas said. “Where we’re seeing a lot of this gap is those that fall maybe just shy… of where they would receive those meals at a reduced cost, or even free."

It's an issue seen around the country with a recent survey by the School Nutrition Association finding more than $19 million dollars are owed at U.S. schools.

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Despite the debt, Jonas said they've been providing meals to all children in the district.

"We’re trying to make sure we’re filling in the gaps where we can," Jonas said, "but again, this debt is something that is adding up."

Kiral said her kids don't even attend Iredell-Statesville schools, but she wants to help where she can.

“We’re reaching out to faith communities and friends," Kiral said, "...all kinds of people, asking for donations.”

"Kids are still eating… racking up a little bit of debt, as we move toward the end of the year," Foster added. "So, the hope is to take care of that.”

Those interested in donating can find the online fundraiser through AngeLink here.

Families having a challenge paying for their kids meals, should contact the school district to see if their child qualifies for assistance.

Contact Kayland Hagwood at khagwood@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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