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October 11, 2017 06:05 PM

'Hungry Hearts Day' To Help Pay For School Lunches

Sioux Falls

Kids in school shouldn't have to worry about having enough money in their accounts to pay for lunch. Last year, the Sioux Falls School District had $40,000 in unpaid lunch debt. 

While many students qualify for free lunches, a local restaurant wants to help families who just miss the cut or students whose parents forget to fill out the proper paperwork.

When Barrel House chef Jesse Severson and owner Mark Fonder came up with a plan to help feed kids in Sioux Falls, they began with a goal to raise $25,000. 

"I think we're about $37 or $38,000 right now," Fonder said. 

That's money in the bank from local donors even before the main fundraising event kicks off this Saturday at the eastside restaurant. Severson says the motivation behind what's being called "Hungry Hearts Day" is simple. 

"If they're listening to their stomachs, how are they hearing their teachers? If they're paying attention to being hungry, they're not learning anything and that's what they're at school to do," Severson said. 

Like Severson, many of the employees at the Barrel House have children in Sioux Falls schools. On top of the restaurant donating 25 percent of the event's sales to the cause, workers are giving 25 percent of their tips, as well. 

"It's near to me because I grew up on free lunch program. My siblings grew up on free lunch program. Why should a kid have to worry about where they're going to get their meal. If they're not getting it at home, at least we should allow them to have it at school in the comfort of school," Severson said. 

Funds raised will go to the district's Angel Fund. That money gets distributed to students whose families struggle to keep their child's account balance out of the red. 

"We want to make sure that every kid gets fed. We're trying to work with the school system on this to fix the problem and draw awareness to it. If we can raise $100,000, I'd love it," Fonder said. 

A student's family will receive several notifications if a lunch account is low on funds or it is out of money. The Hungry Hearts Day takes place this Saturday from 11-5 at the Barrel House. There will be inflatables, face painting and a hog roast. 

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