Man pays lunches
Jerry Fenton/Facebook.com

A motel owner in Burlington, Iowa, has surprised the elementary school he attended by writing a $700 check to pay overdue school lunch fees for dozens of kids.

Jerry Fenton’s donation covered 89 students and their parents at Grimes Elementary school, the same school he also attended as a child. The overdue lunch balance at the school was only $458.63 at the time of the donation, so the extra funds will go towards future balances as well, allowing his impact to help even more children.

“I gave them extra money in the account so that every kid at Grimes Elementary school won’t be hungry the rest of this school year,” Fenton posted on Facebook.

After Fenton’s donation, parents who owed money were sent a note from the school saying their balance was cleared.

It is well documented that not eating lunch will have a negative impact on a child’s learning. However in the past years, research has indicated an increasing number of children arriving in cafeteria’s unable to pay for their meals. A 2012 survey of school meal programs found that 53 percent of school districts were experience an increase in unpaid meal charges.

“I find it hard to believe that in this day and age there are kids that go hungry, it’s just unfathomable in this day and age,” he told WQAD.

He shared his good deed on his Facebook page about a week ago, and has received 2.4K likes, over 600 shares, and almost 200 comments. But he didn’t do it to attract attention.

Fenton said he was inspired to help out the school after learning about a similar story on Facebook. The story that inspired Fenton's good deed is about Josette Duran, a mom in Albuquerque, N.M. who is more than 1,000 miles away from Fenton. Duran’s son had asked her if he could have two lunches to bring to school so he could give one to a friend. Duran soon learned that her son's friend's mom had recently lost her job and couldn't afford to pay his lunch bills. Fenton wanted to take this good deed a step further.

These kinds of donations are “extremely rare,” Alan Mehaffy, food service director for the school district, told The Des Moines Register.

The only other similar donation he could remember was when a school food service employee had died and asked for memorial donations to go toward students' overdue lunch bills, he said.

Support from friends and family has now turned into support from strangers from across the U.S. Many are reaching out to Fenton to thank him for his kindness.

“How awesome! Thank you so much for your kindness. No kid should have to stress about their school lunch account. Unfortunately though it happens daily!” wrote John Jaimee Sparrow on a Facebook post.

“Always knew you had it in you. Keep paying it forward. Others may not catch on, but you will always feel love in your heart!!” Cindy K. DiPrima commented as well.

Many of the students don’t even know that their lunch accounts are overdrawn, Mehaffy explained. The parents receive a letter directly from the school, which can definitely cause tension at home. Overall, unpaid lunch bills weren't a major problem at Burlington schools, but sometime caused issues between parents and teachers when the school sent home reminders about the bills. But thanks to Fenton’s donation, students won’t have to worry about their lunch balances, and they might not ever learn why.

Fenton now hopes that his deed will go on to help inspire other random acts of kindness since his story has gained so much traction. He wrote in a Facebook post, “Now it’s your turn to do something good for your fellow man.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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