Anonymous donor pledges nearly $100k to cover meals at Utah elementary school

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PLEASANT GROVE — Parents of students at Manila Elementary School awoke Monday to a surprising email announcing that a private donor will be paying for school meals for the entire school year.

“It’s a very generous donation that will bless many families here at Manila,” said Rachelle Spencer, the school’s principal, in an interview with KSL-TV.

Spencer said the donor wishes to remain anonymous. The donation will cover breakfast and lunch and will be retroactive to the beginning of the school year.

“We’ve had lots of parents reach out, just so excited and elated as they’ve gotten wind about this and ‘Is this really happening?’ and so excited and very grateful for this donor,” she said.

Spencer said the secret donor saw the positive impact of free school meals during the pandemic and wanted to continue it so that students don’t have to worry about food.

“This has been something that has been very hard for parents to cover those lunch balances in some cases, depending on whether it’s their jobs, or rent going up, housing payments going up,” Spencer said.

The Alpine School District Foundation worked out the details of the large donation and told KSL-TV it will end up being close to $100,000.

“They want to support this school first,” said Tyler Vigue, the foundation’s executive director. “But they have dreams and hopes that if this goes well, that they, and maybe others, could continue to do this at other places here throughout the county.”

Parents were inspired and grateful to learn about the donation.

“I think it’s great,” said Christa Cox. “Anonymous donor: Thank you.”

A lunch cook prepares corn dogs at Manila Elementary School in Pleasant Grove on Monday, Sept. 19.
A lunch cook prepares corn dogs at Manila Elementary School in Pleasant Grove on Monday, Sept. 19. (Photo: Stuart Johnson, KSL-TV)

She said inflation has many families worried about their budgets.

“Especially with food,” Cox said. “Because it’s just getting worse, as you see, when you go grocery shopping, prices just rising.”

The school’s email message to parents contained a message from the anonymous donor.

“One thing we can all agree on is no child should go hungry,” the donor’s message said. “Feeding children should be a universally accepted responsibility of every community.”

The donor’s message said that we all benefit from a well-educated society.

“Our future doctors, police officers, educators, and business owners are attending elementary schools in our communities and many of them face food insecurity each day,” the message went on to say.

Manila Elementary School in Alpine School District on Monday.
Manila Elementary School in Alpine School District on Monday. (Photo: Stuart Johnson, KSL-TV)

The donor acknowledged that there are waivers for families to qualify for free and reduced meals, but that it doesn’t cover all situations.

“The stigma derived from the income-based classification of students quickly transfers to the food itself, leading to perceptions that it is inferior,” the donor wrote. “Our goal with providing free school lunches to any Manila elementary school child is to help reduce that stigma and ensure everyone has a healthy meal each day.”

“We hope this initiative inspires others to donate alongside us as well as inspire lawmakers to consider legislation to expand the reach of the free school lunch program,” the donor’s message concluded.

One thing we can all agree on is no child should go hungry.

–Anonymous Donor

The email included a link to donate directly to the Alpine School District Foundation and indicating that the funds are for the Manila Lunch Program.

The donor and the school encouraged families who may qualify for free or reduced lunch to still apply for the government program, which will allow the donated money to stretch further and also keep an accurate snapshot of the community’s demographics.

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