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Minnesotans are helping kids by paying off overdue lunch accounts

Help make sure that every kid gets a hot lunch this holiday season.

Hundreds of Minnesotans are donating to an important cause this holiday season: feeding hungry kids.

Overdue lunch accounts are a big issue in Minneapolis Public Schools. In fact, the district says there are over 4,000 overdue accounts, with a total balance of $160,000.

But a new initiative aims to ensure that every kid gets a hot lunch. And this holiday season, you can help by paying off an overdue lunch account.

The campaign

It all started with a Facebook post Thursday from former State Rep. Jeremy Kalin, who worked with local community members and the nonprofit charity Achieve Minneapolis to start collecting donations.

"A $25, $40 or $100 contribution may not be a big sacrifice to you, but it will mean a great deal to a family having a tough time making ends meet," Kalin wrote.

His post was shared over 1,000 times, and the campaign to help pay off overdue student lunch accounts quickly took off. By Friday afternoon, the charity had received 260 gifts, adding up to more than $13,000.

"It's not only just a problem making sure they've got lunch but there's shaming that happens in the school lunch line," he told Go 96.3. "We need kids to have full brains and full stomachs to be able to learn."

You can listen to Kalin's interview with the Ben, Dana & Giselle Show below.

On Monday morning, Minneapolis Schools tweeted that they were almost a third of the way towards their $160,000 goal, which will pay off all the overdue accounts.

If you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation to Minneapolis Schools, there are step-by-step instructions here.

What about St. Paul schools?

As the campaign spread on social media, people wanted to know if other school districts needed help paying off overdue lunch accounts.

St. Paul Public Schools Interim Communications Director Toya Stewart Downey told FOX 9 that the district received "many, many" phone calls from people willing to donate.

"This was not something the district started on its own accord, but rather because of the calls from people who wanted to help," Downey said. "And because there are rules that govern how schools and districts can accept funds, we need to act fast."

The district responded with their own page to collect donations. According to the site for their project, Food for Thought, St. Paul Public Schools has 1,793 students whose families have been unable to pay for lunches, with a total balance of $27,879.

No students are turned away at lunchtime, a spokesperson told the Star Tribune, but an overdue balance can mean a kid gets a cheese sandwich instead of a hot meal.

A gift of $10 will cover four school lunches, the donation page says.

As of Monday afternoon, SPPS has received $18,108 towards their $28,000 goal.

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