After Jeffery Lew heard last spring that there were kids in Seattle Public Schools who didn’t have enough money to pay their outstanding school lunch bill, he decided to take action. Lew, 33, a local government worker, discovered that “lunch shaming”—when kids are denied food or forced to work in the lunchroom to pay off their lunch debt—was going on in cities all over the country. So the Beacon Hill parent set up a GoFundMe campaign to pay off the $97.10 students owed at his son’s elementary school.
Donations began rolling in so quickly that Lew decided to aim higher: Why not wipe out the lunch debt for the entire Seattle school district? That would be all 91 schools, at a total cost of $21,000. Within five days Lew reached his goal, then surpassed it, thanks to a supportive community and a $5,000 donation from singer-songwriter John Legend, which took the Seattle campaign to another level.
“I was blown away by the response,” he says.
He again upped the ante, launching similar fundraising efforts for the Renton, Spokane, Tacoma and Clover Park school districts, and inspired parents in other districts to do the same. By press time, Lew had raised more than $97,000. At the end of August, he took another leap and launched a statewide campaign, hoping to pay off the student lunch debt in schools all over Washington state.
Read about the rest of 2017's Most Influential Seattleites here.