UPDATE: According to an affidavit for a search warrant obtained by Oil City on Jan. 6, 2020, the Casper Police Department is investigating donations made to the Natrona County School District which are referenced in this article.
The police department’s affidavit for the search warrant was filed to seek records from GoFundMe.com for the “Feed Casper Students”-related fundraising effort. Further information is available in this article.
The Natrona County School District Board of Trustees accepted $3,500 in donations from “Feed Casper Students” during the school board’s Monday, April 8 meeting.
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“Funds were used to pay down negative student lunch balances beginning at the elementary school level,” a school board document states.
The fundraising efforts were coordinated by Brittny French, according to the board document.
French created a GoFundMe donation page on July 31, 2018, which explains the purpose of the funding.
“Children depend on a nutritious lunch to help them through their school day,” the page reads. “Although reduced and free lunches are offered following very strict income guidelines many students do not and cannot qualify for these programs and still cannot afford to pay for school lunch.”
The page cites a 2015 federal report that found 39% of American school districts hand out “alternate meals” to students who are late on their meal balances.
“These ‘alternate meals’ are cheap and not nutritional nor is it enough to fill their bellies for the full day,” the webpage continues. “Often times the ‘alternate meal’ served even here in Natrona County is a SunButter sandwich and a carton of milk.”
“‘“NCSD#1 requires that records and payments are tracked and reminders go out to parents when lunch money account is getting low,'” the webpage quotes from an Elementary Schools Parent Handbook. “Beginning 2016-2017 Students whose balance exceeds $10.00 will be asked to eat and alternate lunch until the balance is paid in full.'”
“‘Students with an overdue balance who are eating a meal prepared at home can be allowed to purchase one milk. Balances can forward from year to year. Some schools in Natrona County will wipe the debt clean for the new year but some of the schools do not do this leaving a previous balance from the year before.’”
French’s GoFundMe page says that a Kelly Walsh graduation class organized the fundraising efforts.
“Kelly Walsh High School Graduating Class of 2008 wants to raise money and pay off school lunch debts in Casper at as many elementary schools as we can with the money raised,” the page reads. “We pray to pay off the majority of the debt at all 13 elementary schools in our town.”
The organizers are focused on raising awareness in addition to the money.
“The intention is to also increase awareness in our community, both about school lunch debt and school lunch shaming,” the webpage says. “The hope is to also form a coalition in 2018-2019 school year to start a conversation about what it would mean to have a system in place that the debt of a parent should not directly affect the child that has no control.”