Incoming councilmember donates unused campaign funds toward Merriam Park Elementary lunch debt

Whitney Yadrich, center, Merriam’s incoming Ward 2 councilmember, gave a $500 donation to go toward Merriam Park Elementary School’s lunch debt.

The Merriam Park Elementary Parent Teacher Association last week received a gift from incoming Merriam councilmember Whitney Yadrich: a $500 donation toward the school’s student lunch debt, which was north of $2,400 prior to the donation.

In addition to her donation, which came from leftover campaign funds, Yadrich started a fundraiser to cut down Merriam Park’s lunch debt.

“One of the things that I ran on that was really important to me was the whole life cycle of a community, improving that, and improving the performance of the community,” said Yadrich, who is a member of the PTA. “Financial strain is a big part of that.”

Those who wish to make a donation can do so via check or cash, and drop the donation off at the school before Dec. 20. Another option is to message Merriam Park’s PTA on Facebook regarding donation drop-offs.

“I mean, $1,900 isn’t a lot between all of us in the ward,” Yadrich said of the remaining debt. “If we can try to [zero out the debt], it’s like an immediate impact in physical, mental and emotional health.”

A way to proactively combat school lunch debt is for families to fill out free and reduced lunch applications as soon as possible, because the debt is not cleared once a family is qualified for one of the two programs, Yadrich said. Currently, more than half of Merriam Park students are on the free or reduced lunch programs, she said. Families who wish to fill out a free or reduced lunch program application can do so on the Shawnee Mission School District website.

Yadrich said this fundraiser is not specific to the holidays, but is intended to be a recurring fundraiser each semester.

Last year, the Shawnee Mission School District approved a plan to guarantee a full meal to students regardless of the balance in their lunch accounts. However, rising unpaid debts prompted the board to consider methods for collecting on negative accounts.