Lunch Angels paying it forward

Feb. 10, 2014 @ 04:48 PM

Paying it forward just got a little tastier.
Two Durham business owners have made sure that children in the area’s public schools can eat school lunch. Kyle Newman of Craige Motor Co. and Erik Neill of Neill’s Taekwondo & Fitness didn’t let Monday morning’s flurries stop them from making their first of many trips to school cafeterias in Durham and Chapel Hill to pay off past-due lunch accounts.
There was no novelty check or press conference called when the two went to the cafeteria at Pearsontown Elementary and paid the $830 in past-due lunch accounts before going about their day.
“We’re been in food services for a long time,” Neill said. “I have two children in Durham Public Schools and Kyle went to school here. Our goal is to give back.”
“We hope that some larger companies see what we’re doing and decide to help,” said Newman.
Pearsontown was the first stop of about 11 schools in Durham and Chapel Hill that the two intend to visit, helping students over the next six weeks by paying past-due lunch accounts.
Cafeteria manager Betty Vanhook said that never in her 18 years in food services had she seen anything like it and was grateful that Neill and Newman helped so many students.
A printout is usually sent home to parents to let them know how much is owed on student accounts. Vanhook said that the next printout will show that the balances have been paid.
A school in Utah made national headlines for tossing out the lunches of students who had delinquent lunch accounts. Kenny Thompson, a volunteer at Valley Oaks Elementary in Houston, Texas, heard about what happened in Utah and decided to help the school where he donates his time by paying off their past due balances.
Following in Thompson’s footsteps, Newman and Neill talked about the lunch angel during their Friday lunch meeting and agreed that “we could probably do that for a couple of schools” Newman said.
“It makes me feel like the community is opening their eyes to what’s going on in our schools and wanting to help,” said Pearsontown assistant principal Jennifer Hauser. “They’re helping our kids be successful. We’re really happy to be a part of something that can potentially be a really big thing.”
Hauser estimated that the number of students helped was in the dozens.