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No lunch shaming in Tacoma after campaign gets whopping donation

A local credit union helped Seattle school lunch shaming/lunch debt activist Jeff Lew reach his Tacoma GoFundMe campaign goal. But his mission to end the practice has just begun.
A local credit union helped Seattle school lunch shaming/lunch debt activist Jeff Lew reach his Tacoma GoFundMe campaign goal. But his mission to end the practice has just begun. McClatchy file, 2014

School lunch debt in Tacoma has been erased and there’s even a cushion for next year.

After GoFundMe campaign organizer Jeff Lew spoke to America’s Credit Union employees last week, president and CEO Ken Leonard presented him with a $7,735 donation.

That pushed the Tacoma campaign to its $30,000 goal.

“Hopefully, we’re starting the school year lunch debt at zero,” Lew said Sunday.

When Lew started the campaign May 17 the collective debt parents owed to the Tacoma School District stood at $20,841.

Lew didn’t know the credit union was going to make the campaign-topping donation.

“It was a huge help,” Lew said. “I was very exited and happy to hear that.”

The Tacoma campaign is one of four (including Seattle, Renton and Spokane) that Lew has started recently. Together, all four have raised $91,503 as of Sunday evening.

Singer John Legend made a $5,000 to the Seattle campaign.

“The three largest school districts in the state of Washington are now debt-free,” Lew said.

Lew, of Seattle, has three young children and a full-time job, but spends as much time as he can working on his campaigns.

He was inspired by media reports of lunch shaming — when schools give children a reduced meal or no food at all if their parents or guardians are in debt with the school.

“It’s such a hot topic for people nationwide,” Lew said. “These kids should not be punished for what their parents are doing or not doing.”

Lew and his campaigns have become a hot topic with media and public interest coming nationwide.

“Such a small idea has snowballed into something big,” he said.

Now, he wants to erase lunch shaming.

“I’m determined to find a permanent solution to end lunch shaming and lunch debt once and for all,” he said.

That includes meeting with school districts and state legislators, he said.

“These kids need food.”

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

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