Single dad works to wipe out lunch debt in Wichita schools

The "Tennessee Anti-Lunch Shaming Act" was filed by Rep. John Ray Clemmons./ (MGN)
The "Tennessee Anti-Lunch Shaming Act" was filed by Rep. John Ray Clemmons./ (MGN)(WVLT)
Published: Feb. 14, 2020 at 10:26 AM CST
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Since the start of the school year, Wichita Public Schools has racked up $350,000 in school lunch debt.

The amount is up from previous years, but now, one man is working to help knock that number down.

Donna Simpson is the assistant principal at Brooks Magnet Middle School. She says there are 52,000 students in the Wichita school district and 600 of those students attend Brooks.

So far this year, Simpson says the school has amassed $6,000 in school lunch debt, a dramatic increase from past years.

"$6,000 this year is really up from previous years, but when you think about the things that have happened in the Wichita economy over the last year with extreme layoffs, we have students who have parents that are affected," Simpson says.

That's where Joshua Dedeaux comes in. He says he knows what it's like to be hungry

"No kid should ever have to worry about where their next meal will come from. I also just like mentoring and helping out the youth.

Now, he's on a mission to wipe out school lunch debt in Wichita.

"I'm not the best off financially, I'm a single father with two kids, I take care of my mom as well. I also have a spoiled dog so money is tight, but I think you have to set your heart on something and you just have to go with it," says Dedeaux.

He started a fundraiser on social media and quickly raised $700. He donated $500 himself.

Dedeaux is now challenging other parents to try and give a few dollars each week to put on random students' lunch accounts. He says his friends are doing the same thing in Kansas City and Oklahoma City.

While Wichita students are never denied a lunch, that's the reason for all of the debt in the first place.

Brooks is now school lunch debt-free, still, Dedeaux says he wants to get to a point where every student has money in their lunch account.

"We have almost half a million people in Wichita if everybody chipped in with 50-cents or a dollar, I'm sure we could knock it," he says.

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