Photo: bhofack2/ iStock

Warwick Public School district faced controversy earlier this week when it announced that students with unpaid lunch balances would be denied hot food. Now, yogurt brand Chobani is stepping up to pay off $77,000 worth of student debts.

In what many have called a method of shaming the poor, children in debt would be given a sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich instead of hot meals like their classmates would have, until their balance was paid.

As outrage over the new rule grew, some people decided to do more about it then wag a finger of disapproval; they found ways to help. Most visibly, Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya hopped on Twitter Thursday (May 9) to announce some big news for the families of Warwick, RI. 

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“As a parent, this news breaks my heart,” he wrote. “For every child, access to naturally nutritious and delicious food should be a right, not a privilege. When our children are strong, our families are stronger. And when our families are strong, our communities are stronger. Business can and must do its part to solve the hunger crisis in America and do its part in the communities they call home.”

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In addition to paying off the debt, Chobani is also donating cups and yogurt to the community in Warwick.

By the time this announcement came, Warwick school district had already started backpedaling in the backlash. According to the Providence Journal, Karen Bachus, chairwoman of Warwick’s school committee, confirmed that the district will not follow through on its earlier plan to deny hot lunches and food choices. 

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It’s great to see outrage and protection for our young. It’s even better to see large food companies stepping up to help children in need; hopefully more companies will come together to pay these debts across the nation, and donate nutritious food like Chobani has. Still, it’d be best of them to use their corporate power to also push for higher wages and more job opportunities for the working class. That way, affording school lunch isn’t an issue at all. Give a hand up, not just a hand out. Address the real root issues.

In addition to the help from Chobani, a GoFundMe account has also pooled together over $56,000 from the public as of Saturday morning (May 11) to offset student lunch debt in Warwick Schools.