‘Lunch Fairy’ wants to save Fayette students from a cold cheese sandwich

Two Florida high school juniors who founded an organization called School Lunch Fairy want to donate money to prevent Fayette County Public Schools students with unpaid cafeteria bills from getting a cold cheese sandwich.

Fayette is one of several school districts across the country that withholds a hot meal and offers an alternative cold cheese sandwich when, officials say, efforts to work with families to get the bill paid fail and students have charged the maximum number of meals allowed under the district policy.

Generally, the families of the children involved earn too much income to qualify for federal free school meals.

One of the students who founded the organization, Christian Cordon-Cano, a high school junior at a West Palm Beach private high school, said that his group raises funds to help public schools either cover unpaid school lunch balances or set up emergency funds for kids who can’t pay for lunch.

He founded the organization with Bernardo Hasbach, also a junior.

Cordon-Cano sent an email recently to Fayette Child Nutrition Director Michelle Coker and said that that his group was interested in making a $1,000 donation to Fayette County.

Cordon-Cano said he hoped if the school district accepted the donation, the Lexington community would start a fundraising campaign to supplement the donation, and he would ask the local PTA to help spread the word.

He was compelled to raise money, he said, when he heard about the alternative lunch practice in public schools sometimes called “lunch shaming.”

“It is kind of hard to believe that could happen in other schools,” he said.

The Lunch Fairy organization has raised more than $6,000 and has donated $1,500 to the Palm Beach Florida County public schools, said the district’s media relations specialist Julie Houston Trieste. The organization also donated $1,500 to Martin County School District in Florida, Cordon-Cano said.

As for the offer to Fayette County schools, “we request that the funds we give be set up preferably as an emergency lunch fund, but if the district prefers to pay down school lunch debt with our donation, that is fine with us,” he said. “We simply ask that the more needy students be given priority.”

Coker did not immediately accept the donation, but said district officials are considering options.

“Throughout the year we have had several other individuals reach out to offer their assistance as well. We will consider all options as we move forward on our efforts to ensure that all of our students receive a nutritious school meal each day,” she said.

Coker previously said that a cold cheese sandwich is not given often in Fayette County, where the district must balance feeding children with operating a financially viable meals program.

A few school districts in Kentucky, such as Jefferson County and Madison County, have decided to eliminate the practice of offering cold sandwiches to children with negative accounts and give them only hot meals.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Manny Caulk recently announced that lunch prices in the 2017-18 school year will not increase 10 cents a meal for Fayette County Public School students as had been proposed.

Lunch prices will remain at $2.50 for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and $2.75 for students in sixth to 12th grades.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears