John Legend Forks Over $5,000 to Help Pay Lunch Bill Debts for Seattle Public School Students

Musician John Legend at the Billboard Music Awards May 21, 2017. Getty Images.
A campaign to eliminate the lunch debts of Seattle public school students got an unexpected boost last week from Grammy Award–winning musician John Legend.

Legend sent a $5,000 donation under his birth name, John Stephens, to a GoFundMe campaign that initially sought to raise more than $20,000 to pay every student’s outstanding school lunch bill balance, according to The Seattle Times.

The campaign was started by Seattle resident Jeffrey Lew, who wanted to “ease the burden” for families struggling to pay for nutritious meals for their children at school. Lew’s wife recognized Legend’s birth name and asked her husband to confirm the donor’s identity.

Legend tweeted his support for the campaign on Twitter.

The campaign has been so successful, Lew told the Times, that it raised more than $43,000 and will be expanded to pay students’ lunch debts in Tacoma and Renton as well.

Across the country, there have been reports of schools throwing out students’ meals or engaging in “lunch shaming” —making kids wear a special wristband, have their hand stamped, or perform extra chores — if their families can’t pay. A bill introduced in Congress aims to end these practices, and activists have called on school districts to offer free lunch to all students.

In New York, Lunch 4 Learning activists say there are about 110,000 city kids whose families struggle to pay the estimated $315 annual cost of school lunch for each child.

Read more about the lunch affordability gap here.

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