Online fundraiser helps pay off school lunch debt in Norfolk

A fundraiser to pay off the school lunch debt at Ocean View Elementary has turned into a mission to erase the lunch debt at all 40 schools in the city.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A fundraiser to pay off the school lunch debt at Ocean View Elementary has turned into a mission to erase the lunch debt at all 40 schools in the city.

The fundraiser Heather DiRocco started Nov. 2 has far surpassed its goal of $500, bringing in nearly $2,500 in less than two weeks. She says the extra money will be put into a reserve fund to continuously pay down the debt at the elementary school.

Now, DiRocco has launched a second fundraiser. The money earned will be divvied up between all of the district’s schools.

DiRocco says when her kids’ lunch accounts fell into the negative in the beginning of the school year, she had no idea the school was feeding them cheese sandwiches.

Norfolk Public Schools say students with negative balances of $5 or more are given a free option of a cheese sandwich and milk.

“It’s just not enough,” she said. “These kids are not getting enough nutrition. They are hungry.”

Determined to clear the debt so students could get what she says is a well-balanced meal, the mother of three reached out to 10 On Your Side.

Within 12 hours, viewers donated more than $600 to her fundraiser.

“I want to give them all a big hug and tell them, ‘I just wish you could see what your contribution has done. I wish you could see these kids’ faces who come into the cafeteria expecting the same cheese sandwich and now they get a choice.'”

The Norfolk Public Schools released the following statement regarding DiRocco’s efforts:

We know that there are a myriad of reasons for parents, in this and other school districts, that occasionally will require students to receive an alternate lunch. Kids lose lunch money, lunch applications are sometimes delayed, and parents may fall on difficult times. However, we work with families to bring those accounts current and to provide a nutritious meal in the interim. We appreciate the efforts of Ms. DiRocco and the outpouring of community support.”

Those interested in donating to DiRocco’s district-wide fundraiser, click here.