Students at Missouri Ridge Middle School get lunch Thursday. Some students have started the Hot Lunch Helpers, a group dedicated to collecting money to pay off outstanding lunch balances.

They thought it wasn’t fair, so they became the Hot Lunch Helpers.

Some fifth-graders at Missouri Ridge Middle School heard about classmates who were able to get a hot lunch because their lunch account balances were too high.

They approached Steven Guglich, the school’s principal, to see what they could do. He wasn’t sure at first, but he wanted to talk with them about it.

“I didn’t want to discourage them,” Guglich said. “What great hearts.”

Eventually, the students themselves came up with the idea to put collection jars in each classroom. Every month, they collect the money, and the homeroom that’s raised the most gets a pizza party, sponsored by parents at the school.

The students, Ryann Harkinson, Aurora Lisle and Jazmyn Holley, have been impressed with the response they’ve seen. Just about every homeroom has donated now.

The girl who originally had the idea has moved away, so the three of them have taken over raising money.

“I felt like I was just trying to help,” Harkinson said.

When students have an unpaid balance on their lunch account, they can’t get a hot lunch, so instead get a peanut butter sandwich or have to bring food from home.

“All of us thought that’s not fair,” Holley said.

The group has raised $143.93 at last count, but they’re not finished yet.

“We want to keep going until we have enough money for every student,” Holley said.

Lisle said that will take about $2,500.

Guglich said the school has seen an increase in the number of students with an outstanding lunch balance. Employees contact the parents to let them know, and sometimes the parents decide to just send lunch with the student.

But, Guglich added, he hasn’t heard from any families who are having a financial hardship.

The district does offer free and reduced lunch forms, and he encourages families to fill them out, because there are many situations where people might not realize they qualify.



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