At The Barrel House, kitchen manager and chef Jesse Severson is on a mission to keep his costumers well-fed. Severson and his colleagues are now taking an even bigger order: helping local students.
"If the kids are listening to their stomachs, how can they listen to their teachers?" Severson said.
Earlier this month, the restaurant held a fundraiser to help needy families in Sioux Falls pay for lunches.
"We knew there was a need for this," Severson said.
Right now, the total is at $86,000. However, owner Mark Fonder expects to hit $100,000.
"This got bigger than expected and a lot of the community jumped behind it and helped us out and a lot of businesses," Fonder said.
According to the school district, students can charge up to five meals if they cannot afford them and do not qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. After that, they will get what is called a "Smart Snack" instead. A smart snack is comprised of whole grain crackers, mozzarella cheese and milk. The snack meets the USDA guidelines for nutrition, but Fonder wanted to do more for those students.
"Kids who are skipping lunch because they are embarrassed because they have to eat a sack lunch or some kids not eating lunch at all," Fonder said.
"Bottom line, these kids need to eat and we need to provide that for them," Severson said.
It is important to note this does not impact students who do qualify for free and reduced lunch. DeeAnn Konrad with community relations for the district says those kids always have regularly provided meals. However, Konrad says there are families who may not meet federal guidelines for that program who still may have trouble affording lunch or keeping up with payments on their accounts. Konrad says the district is grateful for the money from the Barrel House because this will help those students. Fonder expects to give a check to the district next month.
Feeding area children is a tall order, but both Fonder and Severson are thankful their customers stepped up to help.
"We had a lot of help, so it was a great day and a great cause," Fonder said.
They hope these efforts spark a hunger for even more good deeds.
"The community came together. Now we need the community to come together and make change," Severson said.
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Retail & Restaurants
Last year, the Sioux Falls School District had to cover $40,000 for unpaid meals. A district spokesperson says this highlights a concerning trend: the number of students, who do not meet federal guidelines to qualify for free and reduced lunch, who still cannot afford to eat. A local business wants to help.