A church in Central Jersey has paid off student lunch debt in several surrounding towns.
The Liquid Church, which has seven campuses in six counties, helped wipe out debts in Nutley, Parsippany, Roselle, Sayreville and Somerville, a pastor from the church said Thursday.
“We believe our church should serve and reach the people outside of our walls,” said Pastor Jim Gottshall. “We have a passion to reach the overlooked, especially when it affects children.”
Gottshall said the church did not seek media attention for the donations, which he called “blessings.” A $4,200 gift to the Nutley school board was mentioned in a recent public meeting and drew attention.
Gottshall said the money was raised from church-member offerings from Oct. 13. Gottshall did not say how much was donated. He said the money was accepted in five of seven districts it was offered. He said donations to districts in Ocean Township and Mountainside were not accepted.
A dust-up in Cherry Hill over the issue of school-lunch debt generated national and international attention.
The school district there passed a meal-debt policy this month which could ban students in arrears for $75 or more from some extra-curricular activity, including proms. The action came after the board had considered a measure that would have cut off meals for students with more than $20 in debt if actions to bring the accounts current, including contacting parents, were not successful.
Cherry Hill had also considered a policy that would have limited students with $10 or more of debt to only tuna salad sandwiches and a side dish for lunch. Officials said state Department of Education rules call for denying meals to students with $20 or more of debt.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D), Massachusetts, criticized Cherry Hill’s policy and the British Broadcasting Service reported on the issue, as well.
Cherry Hill refused a recent donation offer from a family-owned supermarket chain to pay more than $14,000 of meal debts. District officials said it would accept donations to a program that distributes food to students from needy families but not to the meal program.
Bill Duhart may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips.
Get the latest updates right in your inbox. Subscribe to NJ.com’s newsletters.