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Fundraiser aims to erase Rapid City school lunch debts, but what next?

It’s hard to learn on an empty stomach, and food insecurity continues to be a problem in classrooms. In Rapid City, a fundraising drive wants to wipe out the districts school lunch debt, but some are pushing for more to be done.

For the Rapid City Public School Foundation, hungry bellies in classrooms aren’t something to ignore. That’s why the group has established their new fundraising campaign, which wants to ensure every child in the community is ready for a full day of school.

Executive director Kara Flynn explained at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

“Adequate nutrition is necessary for students to learn and develop, and RCAS needed help to continue serving every student lunch regardless of account balance," Flynn said. "Last spring and into the summer, companies such as Nerdy Nuts, Independent Insurance Agents and Blackhawk Oil made major donations to help cover this debt, and the student nutrition department collected over $70,000 this summer – but part of the negative balance still remains.”

Flynn said good nutrition is a difference-maker for students.

“Donations to this cause will improve attendance, academic performance, behavior and children’s lives. That at its core is what this generous community is all about," Flynn said. "Ensuring that our children are cared for and have opportunities to thrive. We’re looking forward to partnering to solve this problem and helping RCAS continue to serve lunch to every student, every day.”

While good-faith efforts to fundraise for student lunch debt are certainly powerful, the meter runs each time a kid steps into a lunch line. For district business manager Coy Sasse, something more is needed to make permanent change.

“That current negative balance as of today is $103,000. And so while we greatly appreciate the efforts of all the partners in our community – and there’s been a lot of them – I want to say that I believe the ultimate solution to that issue must lie at the legislative level," Sasse said. "Something needs to change in terms of ultimately how this gets funded.”

More information is available on the foundation's website.

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