When people come together for a common cause on the internet, it is incredible to see how much of an impact they can make.
Garrett Jones, a teacher at a middle school in Utah, posted a TikTok video in which he asked people to donate money to cover the unpaid lunch fees of students in his school district.
In the six-second video, he explained that the reason he is willing to pay the fees is “because the last thing a kid should be worrying about is how much they owe for meals.”
The video has racked up more than 5.3 million views since it first appeared online.
According to USA Today, he had no idea that the video would help him raise more than $30,000 for the school lunch.
In the following videos, he updated that the funds will be used to cancel outstanding lunch fees in the Wasatch County School District.
Jones said “I was blown away. I was literally expecting, best-case scenario, maybe we’d get a couple of hundred bucks.”
During the pandemic, it was reported that students in Jones’ school district were among the 50 million people who qualified for and received free lunches for two years under a federal program.
Unfortunately, the program was terminated at the end of the previous school year, and as a result, the students were required to resume paying the outstanding lunch fees in the cafeteria.
Jones said, “It’s really not up to them to be able to pay, but it’s them who we have to hand a little slip to take home and say, ‘Here’s your balance,’ which isn’t super fun for them or us,”
In addition, he mentioned that he had seen the children in the hallways during lunchtime.
He also mentioned that, although the cafeteria staff at the school feeds the children even if they have an outstanding amount, it is essential to ensure that kids do not skip lunch because of debt.
Jones said “Being at the front of the line and hearing they have a balance is likely enough to dissuade some of them from even eating at all.”
On the TikTok video, he asked 2,673 people to donate $1 via Venmo to pay the outstanding lunch fees for students in his school.
Jones said that the messages that people were sending him were more important than the generosity of them.
He said, “So many of [the donations] were $1, $2 or $3, and they [the donors] were like, ‘I really can’t afford to do much more than this, but I was that kid, I know what it’s like to get that slip and to hear that you have a balance.’”
The previous year, the Wasatch Education Foundation recognized Jones as the Distinguished Educator of the Year award.
He is currently coordinating with the foundation to ensure that the approximately $4000 in unpaid lunch fees of students in the district will be covered.