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Kindergartner’s Hot Cocoa Stand Helps Eliminate Lunch Debt For 123 Students

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A five-year-old in California by the name of Katelynn Hardee heard that there were students at her school struggling with lunch debt. Though she didn’t quite understand the concept, the kindergartner still wanted to help. So she came up with a great plan to raise money for her schoolmates in need.

A Curious Soul

A kindergartner at Breeze Hill Elementary School in Vista, California, five-year-old Katelynn overheard a student’s mom talking about her struggle to pay for lunch for her child. Naturally, the kindergartner asked her mom about it. “She’s very inquisitive,” Katelynn’s mother, Karina Hardee, said in an interview with FOX 5. Sadly, lunch debt is a serious issue at schools across the country. At Breeze Hill, the outstanding lunch balances total $616.85 with hundreds of students struggling to pay for lunch. The school has a policy that prevents students from getting full access to cafeteria food if they owe money on their accounts.

Karina tried to explain the situation as best as she could to her curious daughter, who found it hard to understand why her friends at school couldn’t have access to a good lunch. “[I] just explained to her that some people aren’t as fortunate as us,” the mom said to FOX 5. “Katelynn’s cutest thing she said was she didn’t want her friends to have ‘rumbling tummies,” Karina went on to tell Good Morning America.“She wished her friends could have lunch and snacks no matter what.”

Creating A Plan

Katelynn’s heart of gold wouldn’t allow her to sit back and do nothing about this issue. She wanted to try to raise some money to help erase lunch debt for students. The kindergartner had hosted a few lemonade stands during the summer and, after a little brainstorming with her mom, figured she could do a special holiday stand to raise money.

Since it was the holidays, Katelynn decided to have a stand with treats like hot chocolate, cookies, and cider for neighbors. She helped to bake the cookies and make the cocoa herself. Setting up shop for three hours, she sold everything for $2 each to her neighbors and friends. A friend of the Hardee family donated $30 to the little girl’s great cause. Through her hot cocoa stand, Katelynn was able to donate $78 of her earnings to her school. That amount helped to pay for the debt of 123 students at Breeze Hill. “I started crying,” the school’s cafeteria manager Teresa Sharp told ABC affiliate KGTV in San Diego. “I couldn’t believe that a 5-year-old could think of doing something like that.”

Bigger Goals

Katelynn is planning to host another hot cocoa stand to help raise more money. The five-year-old and her family have also started a crowdfunding account through Fundly, titled #KikisKindnessProject. The goal of the campaign is two-fold. Katelynn wants to continue to pay down student debt not only at Breeze Hill but throughout the Vista Unified School District, which has a total of 1,206 negative balances totaling $6,391. She also wants to help support school programs that might be removed due to budget cuts. The campaign has raised over $1,000 since its launch.

The administration at Breeze Hill as well as employees of the school district recognized Katelynn for her creative idea and selfless work. She recently received an award at Breeze Hill for her donation. “It is truly inspiring to see Katelynn’s compassion and generous nature utilized to help those less fortunate,” Jamie Phillips, director of child nutrition services for the Vista Unified School District, told NBC San Diego. “Her one kind act has rippled and affected the community,” Karina said of her daughter’s work. “It’s starting conversations [around] food for kids.” Quite a few other kids and adults are working to help end lunch debt in this country as well. Hopefully, one day, this problem can be solved completely so that every child can have a hot meal at lunch without worrying about money.

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