RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Studies have shown it’s hard for children to succeed in school when they’re hungry. But many families can’t afford school lunch.

In the Rapid City Area School District, school lunch debt has climbed to $50,000. 

The Rapid City Public School Foundation is raising money to clear the district’s school lunch debt.

“Part of our mission is to enrich and inspire student learning. At that very basic level, we find it very important that every child comes to school with the safety and security knowing that they are valued and are going to receive a lunch,” RCPS Foundation Executive Director Kara Flynn said.

Lunch not only fills a student’s stomach; it can feed a student’s mind by making it easier to focus in class.  

“Having the opportunity to make sure we are feeding students on a daily basis. We have many students whose meal that they get at school might be the only meal that they get in the day and so we want to make sure that they are getting nutritious meals and getting everything that they need,” student nutritionist manager Kayla Wede said.

In Rapid City across the 23 different schools in the district, over 6,000 meals are served at lunch time and just under $600 a whole year can feed one student.

“The student nutrition has that available, when you pay on your student lunch account, you can add money to feed a student in need,” Flynn said.

Those donations give children access to fresh and healthy foods that they may not have access to at home.

“We have salad bars at a lot of our schools with a lot of fresh produce. There are some kids who this might be their only exposure to some of the fresh produce and things that we are bringing in,” Wede said.

The RCPS Foundation says donations are also coming from local businesses that support the cause. 

You don’t have to have a student in the district to help; you can visit here if you would like to help provide a meal for a student in need.