Thea Digiammerino

Groton Food Service Workers Helping to Pay Off Student Meal Debt

About 540 Groton Public Schools students have delinquent school meal accounts, leaving the district with thousands of dollars of debts. 

But Groton Public Schools Food Service Director Ernie Koschmieder said he and his staff will never let a child go hungry, or embarrass them by swapping out a hot meal for a cheaper one, just because they don’t have the money for breakfast or lunch. 

“We have a lot of families that are just on the cusp of free and reduced lunch applications,” Koschmieder explained. 

Currently there’s about $14,000 in meal debt. 

At the current pace, the debt level could rise to $20,000 by the end of the school year, according to Koschmieder. 

So food service workers are stepping in to help. 

“They’re children. They have one job and that is to go to school and to learn. They cannot learn if they have an empty stomach,” Kristina Crandall, the kitchen manager at Mary Morrisson Elementary School, said. 

Crandall spearheaded a new fundraising effort with her colleagues and the community to help decrease the level of debt. It’s called “Feed Their Bodies. Fuel Their Minds.” 

“My whole thing on this is it takes a village—and this village is strong,” Crandall said. 

About 35 different vendors participated in a vendor fair earlier this month. Koschmieder said they’ve already racked up $3,500 from that and people calling in to donate. Plus, there will likely be another vendor fair toward the end of the year, around the holidays. 

There is also a fundraiser at Buffalo Wild Wings, which runs into October. People can print out a “Home Team Advantage Teammate Card” found on the “Feed Their Bodies. Fuel Their Minds” Facebook page. Ten percent of sales will be donated to the cause. 

Koschmieder said food services isn’t part of the school budget, but the district is responsible for making up the debt, which means principals could have to cut field trips or other special events to make up for the money gone. 

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