Employee helps pay Prince William County families’ school lunch debt

By Amber McSherry DLA Public Affairs

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Debbie Roulier works toward the Defense Logistics Agency Information Operations mission every day, but volunteering for a nonprofit organization that pays off school lunch debt for families in Prince William County, Virginia, is just as important to her.

Roulier became interested in the cause in June 2017 after seeing a news story about the organization’s founder, Adelle Settle, a Prince William County mother campaigning to pay off lunch debt. Roulier connected with Settle on Facebook and now serves as a board member and social media coordinator for the organization, which raised $25,000 to pay off lunch debt for 285 families by the end of that summer.

“As the mother of two children, now older, I feel incredibly fortunate my husband and I were able to afford the basic necessities for them,” Roulier said. “Paying for something like a school lunch is something that most of us take for granted, but I know others struggle to do that.”

Roulier spread word about the campaign by reaching out to media outlets in the Washington, D.C., area. The campaign was featured on two TV stations, a local radio station and in two local newspapers.

“Just because a child’s family struggles to pay for breakfast or lunch, the child should not be denied something that is basic to their well-being and health,” Roulier said.

Roulier manage the organization’s social media presence on Twitter and Instagram, routinely updating them with debt totals and names of schools whose families’ debts are paid off by community donors.

The organization temporarily stopped fundraising in March when schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, members received an updated spreadsheet showing lunch debt balances totaled $380,000, $60,000 higher than the original debt in November.

“I was stunned by the news and so sad,” Roulier said.

Organization members began fundraising again, determined to help families who were struggling.

“We have an incredibly talented and generous group of volunteers on the board. Times are tough for everyone, but I know we’ll do all we can to help as many schools as possible,” Roulier said, adding that she’s proud to be part of the effort.

The organization paid off lunch debt for families of 24 schools June 29 when it presented a check for $45,601 to Prince William County Schools Food and Nutrition Services. Members have helped pay off about $145,000 of lunch debt since 2017. They also worked with Virginia House Delegate Danica Roem to introduce state legislation that took effect July 1 to ban lunch shaming, the singling out of students with past-due lunch bills.