BONNEVILLE COUNTY, Idaho (KXPI) - School lunches. For some kids, sadly, it's their only meal of the day. Oftentimes, the school lunch debt can pile up. But Eyewitness News3 anchor Todd Kunz found a local man with a platform to make a change and raise funds to payoff those lunch debts.
So we wanted to help and Pay It Forward.
"It's something that I've wanted to do for a couple of years, but I wanted to do it personally, like just privately. I didn't want to make a big to-do about it, and so I started reaching out to schools to find out if someone were to want to donate to this cause to pay down school lunch debt, who would you talk to? Where would you go? And the more I found out, the more I realized, this is a big issue. This is a big problem," said Taylor standing in
He's talking about school lunch debts and the accruing balances. After the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown got out of the way following 2020, he started the Jeremy Taylor School Lunch Project Jan. 1, 2021.
"East Idaho stepped up. I mean, we've got multiple donors that have come back again and again," said Taylor.
He's primarily the voice of the project and uses his radio platform to collect the funds. The money goes to area school districts to payoff school lunch debt.
"Yep, 100% of the proceeds do go to this cause. 100%," repeated Taylor.
If a person donates more than $25, they get a Jeremy Taylor Morning Show shaker cup as a thank you. The school districts are very thankful.
"More urgent need and to be able to go and meet with the uhm," said Taylor, as his voice trailed off while a man walked into the studio.
"Jeremy, how are you?" asked the man.
"Good. How are you?" said Taylor, questioning who the man was that is interrupting the interview.
"I'm doing well. So I'm Kory (Carling) with Mountain America Credit Union," the man said.
"OK!" said Taylor, recognizing the man from somewhere.
"And you're like, 'Yeah, I know you,'" said Carling.
" I was just about to say we're mid-interview," said Taylor.
"Absolutely. Well, we've actually heard about what you're doing in the community," said Carling.
"OK," said Taylor.
"And providing lunches for our community," continued Carling.
"Yeah," said Taylor.
"And so we're here today to Pay It Forward. So I've brought with me today $500 in cash," said Carling, pulling cash from an envelope.
"Oh wow!" said Taylor.
"That I know you can continue to use," said Carling.
"Yes, yes!" said Taylor.
"To help those in need and to continue to help pay for the lunches for those that truly need it in our community and further your cause. So on behalf of Mountain America Credit Union, we'd like to Pay It Forward with $500 man," said Carling.
"You guys are awesome. Bring it in. That is so cool," said Taylor, taking the cash and hugging Carling.
"Absolutely," said Carling.
"Thank you so much. Great cause!" said Taylor.
"Thank you for all that you do," said Carling.
"Well again, donations like this and the people in the community rallying around the Jeremy Taylor School Lunch Project, that is what keeps the wheels turning. And we did have a slow period over the summer months, but we've ramped back up, and as I told the crew here, we're about to give a donation, which is why Heather is here. We're about to give another donation next week to School District 93," said Taylor, nodding to Heather.
Heather Plain is the Child Nutrition Supervisor in Bonneville School District 93. She agrees, The Jeremy Taylor School Lunch Project is addressing a real problem.
"I'm telling you. There is all kinds of drama across the country, but my team, they would just rather die than have to deal with the charges with a child. And so, I can tell you every single member of my staff has covered meal. They have done it so that kids will eat and those charges aren't there. A couple weeks ago, we had a situation where a child came back to school in the very same clothes they went home in and they were starving and they haven't had anything since they had left, so lunch was their last meal. And this is in elementary school," said Plain, standing in the studio.
So the next day, we met up at the district office for the big check presentation.
"Heather, thank you for your work. Thank your team for their work. On behalf of Jeremy Taylor in the Morning and the Jeremy Taylor School Lunch Project, I present to you, with the assistance of Mountain America Credit Union, a $1,000 check to aid in your mission feeding the kids, not just in this school, but in the entire school district. We love what you guys are doing," said Taylor, handing over a giant check in front of many of the lunch staff.
"Thank you so much. This is very, very generous," said Plain.
Plain said that $1,000 will feed 333 secondary level students or 400 elementary school kids.
Here is the link to donate to the Jeremy Taylor School Lunch Project. Past donations have been made to Dora Erickson Elementary in Idaho Falls and Idaho Falls School District 91.
It is important to note that school lunches are temporarily free right now due to pandemic-related federal funding. But there are still old debts that have not been paid. The districts awarded by the Jeremy Taylor School Lunch Project can hold the money to payoff future debts or use as needed. When the federal funds end, lunch prices will return to $3.00 for secondary students and $2.50 for elementary students.
"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org.