Two sisters are helping their classmates pay for lunch one cup of lemonade at a time.
When Hailey and Hannah Hager learned that some students owe lunch debt at their schools, they decided to pitch in to help them pay it off using their lemonade stand.
“Nobody likes to see other people struggle with anything,” Hannah Hager, 11, told InsideEdition.com, adding that she has a friend who sometimes doesn’t have enough to eat at her elementary school.
The Hagers have used their lemonade stand, which they call Hailey and Hannah’s Helping Hands, to raise money before. The girls helped raise money for the hospice that helped their grandfather, their mother, Erin Hager, said, and raised $100 to buy items to make care packages for people experiencing homelessness last year.
This time, they wanted to help pay off the student lunch debt at their middle and elementary schools. In Davidson County, North Carolina, where the Hagers live, the school district is owed $41,000 in student lunch debt, Yahoo reported. Davidson County school officials didn’t immediately return InsideEdition.com’s request for comment.
But the Hagers are help making a dent in it. The girls have raised about $4,500 so far through their lemonade stand, Facebook page and the help of local churches. The sisters plan to sell food and drinks at the stand this weekend, too.
“It takes just a little bit of effort and you can do amazing things from it,” Hailey, 13, said.
And it isn’t just the Hagers’ community. Student meal debt is a growing problem across the country; 75% of school districts had unpaid meal debt at the end of the 2016-2017 school year, according to the School Nutrition Association. Some school districts across the country have been criticized for giving kids who owe lunch money a cold sandwich rather than a hot meal, and celebrities, businesses and regular people have stepped in to help pay it off.
In Davidson County, school lunches for students in kindergarten to fifth grade cost $2.75 normally and $0.40 for kids who qualify for the USDA’s National School Lunch & School Breakfast Programs, according to the school district’s website. For kids in sixth through 12th grades, lunch costs $3 or $0.40 for those qualify for free and reduced lunch.
Kids are allowed to charge up to $12.75 in lunch costs, but when the balance reaches $37.50, it may be turned over to a collection agency, according to the district’s website, and if a student’s charge balance exceeds $75, the county’s social services office may be contacted “in relation to potential student neglect.”
Hager said she knows firsthand that some families in the community struggle to afford food for their kids.
“We're kind of the safehouse for some kids who don't have a good place to go, or good food.” she explained. “I remember having this one family come over and we basically said you can have anything you want and they stuffed their pockets full, and of course as parents, we try to teach against that, but at the same time that just helped me to understand what home life might be like and that people don't always have food to eat.”
She said she’s proud of her daughters for doing what they can to help others — and said the attention they have received has been a “very humbling experience, it's been phenomenal, very moving.”
It’s also lit a spark for Hannah, she added.
“Of course, they want to try to raise as much as they can for the schools and hopefully inspire some other kids and people out there to make a difference, look for opportunities, to do everything they can to help others,” Hager said. “At the same time, I think [Hannah] might be going toward entrepreneurship.”
“I kind of want to do it forever,” Hannah added.