Durham woman raising money to erase school lunch debt

DURHAM (WTVD) -- A campaign to pay off debt for children in the reduced lunch program in Durham Public Schools is going viral.

Rebekah Miel, of Durham, started the GoFundMe campaign Tuesday and said she met her initial goal of raising $4,500 in less than 12 hours. She has raised more than $12,000 in two days.

"I'm grateful that this many people have shared this story, have felt impacted by it, have felt inspired to give, so I'm really inspired and lifted up by the Durham community," said Miel.

There are 1,500 students receiving reduced lunches and they owe $4,883, according to Durham Public Schools. Reduced price lunches cost 40 cents.

"This is something that's happening in the Durham community and hopefully we can find a solution so that this doesn't keep happening year after year," said Miel.

The funds would wipe out that debt; Miel has created a new goal to raise a total of $32,000 by January 1.

Donate to the GoFundMe

She said that would also cover the lunch debt of all middle schoolers in the district.

Miel said that includes some families who may need free or reduced price lunches but didn't apply due to a number of reasons such as a lack of information, resources, or language barriers.

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She said all proceeds will go directly to Durham Public Schools School Nutrition Services and that her small business, Miel Design Studio, will pick up a portion of the cost of the GoFundMe fees.

Two-thirds of the nearly 34,000 students in the district receive free or reduced lunches, according to Durham Public Schools.

The lunch debt of all students in the district is $103,835. Miel said she may boost her goal to cover that amount if she meets the $32,000 goal.

"There's a lot of things that happen around the holidays, and if this is one less thing that families have to worry about in the holidays, that's another great benefit too," Miel said.

Miel said she also hopes the campaign raises awareness about school lunch debt shaming.

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