Church pays off school lunch debt in 5 NJ districts
The generosity of community members during a special offering collected by Liquid Church this month paid off in the form of a clean slate in cafeterias across five school districts in New Jersey.
Thousands of dollars collected on Oct. 13 went to eliminating the student lunch debt for nearly 1,500 families in Roselle, Sayreville, Somerville, Nutley and Parsippany, according to Essex County Campus Pastor Jim Gottshall.
Liquid is a non-denominational Christian church launched in 2007 “that is Bible-based and Christ-centered” with multiple campuses in Essex, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Somerset and Union Counties.
When contacted about the paid-off lunch tabs, Gottshall said the church didn't pursue any media coverage for the action, as Liquid "did not want people to misinterpret our act of no-strings-attached generosity as anything other than that."
He did say that the church already has heard from many parents that were directly impacted expressing their appreciation, as well as one of the school superintendents where the lunch debt was paid off.
As reported by TAPintoNutley, Nutley's Board of Education noted at its Oct. 28 meeting that more than $4,200 had been paid off in lunch debt across that district, alone.
Gottshall said Liquid is not trying to turn the forgiven lunch debt into a marketing ploy, as "we can all find common ground when it comes to serving and protecting our children. So while we might all believe that it's a God thing, we can all agree that it's a good thing."
The issue of school lunch debt and "lunch shaming" has made headlines this month after Cherry Hill changed its policy to exclude students with more than $40 in debt from certain extra-curricular activities, like prom, until paid off.
Cherry Hill turned down an offer to have its lunch debt paid off. Schools Superintendent Joseph Meloche explained that "erasing the debt that exists does not solve the problem, as has been demonstrated by the $25,000 in debt that was erased during the summer of 2017 and has since accrued again to $18,000.
"Simply erasing the debt does not help those who need support and compassion and meals through the Free & Reduced Meal Programs. Simply erasing the debt does not address the many families with financial means who have just chosen not to pay what is owed," Meloche said back in August.
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