Westbrook schools’ food services director Mary Emerson, left, and Superintendent Peter Lancia accept a donation for the school debt forgiveness program from Infinity Federal Credit Union’s Ashley Wainwright, Kati Glencross and Audrey Solomon. Chance Viles/American Journal

WESTBROOK —  Infinity Federal Credit Union and VIP Tires have donated about $6,700 in total to a fund to pay off student lunch debts.

The donation more than doubles funding for the Westbrook School Department’s lunch debt forgiveness program. Last year, the program wiped out the lunch debt of 37 students.

“Food insecurity has been an ongoing battle. Donations like this are super important,” said Mary Emerson, the schools’ food services director.

Sometimes families whose students qualify for reduced price lunches run into problems that prevent them from paying for the lunches, she said.

“I spoke with a dad over the weekend, and they had a new baby in the family who needed oxygen. Different things happen to different families, and something like that may be why a family has issues paying for lunch,” Emerson said.

In Westbrook, roughly 64% of students are receiving free or reduced lunch. That’s a 2% increase from last school year, during which 37 of the free or reduced lunch students had debt of about $5,000, Emerson said.

Until the recent donations, the debt forgiveness fund totaled about $4,400. With Infinity’s donation of about $2,200 and VIP Tires’ donation around $4,400, the schools can either accept more students into the program or at least keep the program running for longer.

The fund relies entirely on donations; no school money or tax dollars are used. Community partners, like Infinity, VIP Tires and private citizens make up the entire program, Emerson said.

“We are committed to enriching our community, especially through the power of our employees,” said Ashley Wainwright, marketing assistant for Infinity.

Another option, aside from donating to the fund, is to sponsor a student.

“We have some community members sponsor a student for a whole year, which is just great. The donor doesn’t know who the student is, it is entirely confidential, as are all of our programs,” Emerson said.

For more information, reach out to Emerson at [email protected]





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