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Church raises $1,000 after new state law contributes to ballooning debt across the district

Thanks to the generosity of C3 Church Newberg, hundreds of elementary school students in the Newberg School District and their families entered 2018 with a clean slate, at least when it comes to their lunch bill.

As a result of House Bill 3454 becoming law for the 2017-2018 school year, lunch debt across the district ballooned to nearly $5,500 in just four months.

According to C3's Stacia Crawford, when the church learned of the problem, it took the congregation just two weeks to raise the $1,000 needed to pay off the balance for all the district's elementary students.

"We have lots of families with students in the district," Crawford said. "We're happy to help in any way we can."

House Bill 3454, which is one of several "lunch shaming" laws on the books or under consideration in several states, restricts schools from speaking to children about outstanding lunch debt. It mandates that schools and districts communicate only with parents about money owed, but also let students charge meals regardless of how much debt they have.

With the debt growing quickly, the donation meant a lot to Newberg families and to the district's nutrition services department.

"I felt so loved! I've been in tears," said Cheri Meeker, district director of nutrition services. "This makes a huge difference in so many lives. This is such a gift."

The district announced the donation just prior to winter break in mid-December at a time staff were coordinating efforts at each school building to provide meals for families while school was out.

Meeker spearheaded an effort to serve free lunch, as an extension of the summer lunch program Meeker runs each year, to children ages 1-18 at Edwards Elementary School for seven days over the break.

C3 Church's donation was one of many made in December to help students and families in the district.

Newberg Christian Church supplied food boxes for families in need over winter break, while Newberg Emerging Friends Church and the George Fox University campus pastor's office collected hundreds of dollars in gift cards to help support students and their families.

Many local businesses also stepped up, including Willcuts Realtors, which raised $1,300 to purchase Fred Meyer gift cards. Providence Medical Group-Newberg also helped some families with food and gifts, while also offering mental health services during break.

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