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Boy, 8, pays off school’s entire lunch debt

Keoni Ching has paid off his classmates' lunch debt. Images: Getty

An eight-year-old school student has raised US$4,015 (AU$5,965) to pay off his classmates’ school lunch debt after a ‘Kindness Week’ idea caught fire. 

Keoni Ching from Vancouver, Washington planned to sell his handmade key chains to help pay off lunch debt at his school after San Francisco 49ers player Richard Sherman donated around US$27,000 in a similar scheme in November last year. 

“My husband and I had been talking about Richard Sherman and the kindness he showed by paying off school lunch debt,” Keoni’s mother April Ching told PEOPLE. 

“It was more the act than the man. Keoni was just inspired by Richard Sherman because of what he did.”

But Ching’s handmade key chains soon grew popular, with the US$5 items selling around the country as people got on board. 

Ching ended up making 300 chains, and raising enough money to remove the lunch debt at his school and six others. 

“We have sent key chains to Alaska, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Arizona, all over the country," Keonie’s mother, April told CNN. 

"There was one lady who said she wanted US$100 worth of key chains so that she could just hand them out to people.”

Ching isn’t the first student to dig deep to help out their classmates: North Carolina sisters Hannah and Hailey Hager set up a lemonade stand to pay off their school’s lunch debt and raised US$13,252 for 20 schools by September 2019. 

"My friend couldn't buy food at school because she didn't have the money," Hannah told Al Jazeera. 

"She came up to me in the hallway and said, 'Hey, Hannah, the school just gave me a paper that said how much debt I'm in.'"

School lunch debt a US$10.9 billion problem

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to supporters at a caucus night campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

According to the US School Nutrition Association, the USA has a US$10.9 million school lunch debt problem, with the median debt per school rising from US$2,000 to US$3,400 from 2014 to 2019. 

US Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and Rep. lhan Omar in October last year introduced a bill which would make school lunch free for all students in America.

“‘School lunch debt’ should not exist in the wealthiest country in the history of the world,” Sanders said on Twitter.

“When we are in the White House, we are going to provide year-round, free universal school meals.”

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