Kenny Thompson is known as a mentor and tutor to students at Valley Oaks Elementary School in Houston, Texas. But Thompson is also gaining national recognition for going above and beyond the call of duty.
The volunteer learned that more than 60 students with delinquent meal accounts were receiving smaller lunches of cold cheese sandwiches. Upset, he wiped away their negative balances with $465 of his own money.
Thompson has worked with the school for 10 years. He told a local TV station that he would not have thought to check for these negative balances until he read a story about a school in Utah . Uintah Elementary School in Salt Lake City found itself in the headlines last month for throwing away the lunches of students whose meal payments were delinquent. Parents and politicians alike took to the airwaves and social networks in outrage.
"They don't need to be worried about finances," Thompson said to NBC affiliate KPRC TV about the elementary schoolchildren. "They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling."
With Thompson's generosity, the students might be able to focus more on school — and perhaps perform better. Multiple studies link nutrition to classroom performance.
The school assured Thompson that, at least for the week, all students would receive a full lunch regardless of whether some of their accounts move back into the red.
"I'm like, 'Wow. I know that's probably a situation at my school, and the school my son goes to, and the other schools I mentor at,'" Thompson told KPRC. "So I came in and inquired about it."
Thompson says the students will now be spared the embarrassment of eating a reduced lunch in front of their peers. The mentor said in some cases, students would avoid the lunch line precisely because of this. "When I left the building knowing that they were getting fed, they didn't have that stress, [it was] the best money I ever spent," he said.
The cost for a student to eat lunch at Valley Oaks is about 40 cents a day.