(NewsNation) — As schools resume, in certain regions food insecurity remains a challenge for many districts. Students arrive hungry and districts accumulate debt while providing free meals.
Millions of children face this issue nationwide, but a Missouri teen is drawing from his personal experience of uncertainty about lunch and actively working to aid children in his local community.
“I’m only one person, but if everyone starts doing something like this, it will start to make a change,” said DeJuan Strickland.
At 14 years old, Strickland demonstrates age is no barrier to impact. With determination, he successfully addressed his community’s child hunger issue.
Through a GoFundMe campaign, he cleared lunchroom debt for students at his former elementary school, McCurdy Elementary. Strickland’s initial goal of $200 was surpassed, raising $400 instead.
“The reason why I wanted to do that was because I’ve experienced not having enough money to pay for school lunches,” Strickland said.
During Strickland’s fourth-grade year, there was a day when his lunch balance was $0. Although his mother managed to add funds, it was a struggle for her.
“One time I was on disability so my income was fixed and so we had times when food was rough,” Sharron Prather, Strickland’s mother, said, reflecting on challenging times.
The mother and son duo continued raising funds, ultimately eliminating school debt across the Hazelwood School District, a suburb near St. Louis, Missouri.
“Maybe one day in the future, lunch will be free for everybody,” Strickland said.
Across the nation, nine million children face food insecurity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The yearly national public school meal debt amounts to $262 million, with more than 30 million students unable to afford school meals.
Strickland’s charitable efforts highlight the urgent need for such initiatives.
“I’m really glad that kids now are gonna be able to pay for their school lunches and stuff,” Strickland said.
Strickland is also an accomplished author with two published books, “Tech Boy” and “Science Girl.” He used proceeds to kickstart his fundraising campaign.