Kingston Community Tackles Lunch Debt

If you want to make a difference, start locally.

This was Kingston resident Jill Draper’s mindset when she began raising funds to pay off Kingston City School District students’ school lunch debt.

So far, the small business owner has collected enough money to pay off the lunch debt of seven schools in the district. The only school with remaining debt left to tackle is Kingston High School.

Draper presented the first batch of checks at a school board meeting in late January and another batch in February. The school’s debt was just under $6,000 before the initiative began. To date, donors have paid off approximately $3,300 which covered all the elementary and middle schools in the district.

“I believe in doing things as locally and as close to home as possible,” Draper said. “We can all affect our own community so much more easily than distant communities and hopefully we’ll make a few lives a little bit easier.”

Aside from holding residency in Kingston, Draper has no affiliation with the school district; she simply wanted to help the community. She was previously unaware that school lunch debt accumulated and posed an issue for students until she read about it on Twitter. A tweet from writer Ashley Ford (@iSmashFizzle) was what inspired Draper to begin collecting money in early December.

“With the new administration, I know I was and a lot of people were feeling let down or that there wasn’t a lot of hope,” she said. “When I saw the idea that [Ford] tweeted about reaching out to a local school, seeing what the lunch debt was and trying to get it paid off, it seemed really doable and it was something that would be local and have a real impact on the community.”

Draper originally pledged $500 to the cause. From there, she used her personal contacts and social media presence as a small business owner to get others to contribute. Everyone from private citizens to small business owners have given to the cause, with donations ranging from $10 to $2,000. 

“Several dozen people have donated,” she said. “I’ve been collecting them by mail at my studio, or a lot of people have just gotten to me through my email address and reached out to me that way.”

Draper noted that people from outside the district have contacted her about their own district’s school lunch debt. In response, she has given advice and suggested that the best way to affect change is to do so as close to home as possible.

“I don’t think that paying off the lunch debt is changing the world in huge ways but for small impacts, I want to make a difference in people’s daily lives,” Draper said. “Having one worry crossed off the list just makes families’ lives in the community easier and is one less stress on a child trying to learn.”

To learn more about donating to Kingston City School District lunch debt, contact Jill Draper at