From giving kids who owe lunch debt only jelly sandwiches to shaming students who owe money to threatening to put kids in foster care, school districts across the country have been resorting to draconian tactics to get parents to cover school lunch debt. Now, a 5-year-old in Vista, California has taken matters into her own hands, raising money to pay off the negative lunch balances of 123 students at her school.
Katelynn Hardee, a kindergartner at Breeze Hill Elementary School, reportedly heard a parent talking about struggling to pay for an after-school program. "She started asking me a lot of questions, and I just tried to explain to her that sometimes people aren't as fortunate and that we need to try to be kind and give when we can," Karina Hardee, Katelynn's mom, told CNN.
That's when the girl, alongside her mom, decided to set up shop, selling hot cocoa, cider, and cookies. The pair raised $78, according to Good Morning America, and they promptly put the cash toward the negative lunch balances of 123 of her peers. The school's total lunch debt is over $600.
Courtesy of Karina Hardee
Karina told CNN that her daughter wants to make sure fellow students "can have a snack and lunch. If they don't, their tummies grumble."
Breeze Hill Principal Lori Higley said of the effort, "Everybody is just so proud and happy and other students are already talking about ways they can also make a difference. It goes to show that even one small, kind act from a 5-year-old can mean the difference for someone in their life."
Inspired to do even more, Katelynn plans to continue her fundraising efforts and pay off all the negative lunch balances at her school and then "thousands of negative accounts" at schools in the Vista Unified School District, according to her mom. And after that, she wants to put money toward supporting school programs that were slashed due to budget cuts.
- RELATED: School Lunch Debt Should Be Banned
The 5-year-old even has her own hashtag: #KikisKindnessProject. And other students and staff at Breeze Hill have gotten involved, running their own sale in December, as well.
The girl's mom couldn't be more proud of her daughter, telling CNN, "It's all about kindness. Especially this holiday season, and with everything that's going on in the world, we just need a little bit more kindness out there."
Even if you don't live in Vista, you can support #KikisKindnessProject by heading over to the campaign's Fundly page, on which the Hardees have already raised $16K of their $50K goal.