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Rapid City Stevens alumni take lead in paying schools lunch debt

Alumni of Rapid City Steven’s High School have joined together to knock out their school’s lunch debt. That $10,000 is huge for the families in need of support, but it raises questions about statewide school lunch debt.

Members of the Stevens High class of 1983 started turning the idea of debt relief at their most recent class reunion.

Tove Hoff Bormes helped to lead the initial fundraising effort. She said they didn’t want to give a token gesture to their school.

“What could we do that could provide significant help?" Bormes asked. "I think it was actually my husband who first said why don’t we go look at what their school lunch debt is, and work on that? I thought it was a great idea. I contacted a number of classmates, all of whom thought it was a good idea as well – loaded it on Facebook, and we were off and running.”

Bormes said don’t discount your ability to make a difference.

“I think that we as individuals have a lot more power than we’re willing to give to ourselves. We just have to stand up and use it," Bormes said. "I’m a professional fundraiser by trade, and I’ve found if you ask people they often rise to the challenge.”

One particular donor – Mary Curry – pledged to match any donations for Stevens students. She said in a state that denies federal aid for student food assistance, kids need all the assistance they can get.

“There’s priorities – and I would assume a state that claims to be a ‘right to life’ state does not put money into the lives of children that need to have good, sound food," Curry said. "There’s kids falling through the cracks, and they can’t learn without good, nourishing food. So, I think it’s a shame that money would be denied.”

Across South Dakota, there are millions of dollars worth of student lunch debt, according to a report from the Education Data Initiative. If you are interested in donating or fundraising to erase local student lunch debts, you’re encouraged to get in touch with your local school board or the district’s nutrition services office.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture