Giving Back

Somers Alum Takes Bite out of School Lunch Debt

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A fundraiser organized by Mary Zottoli cleared school lunch debt for 10 Somers students.
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SOMERS, N.Y. – Ten Somers High School students had their school lunch debt wiped away thanks to a $258 donation from 2010 graduate Mary Zottoli.

Zottoli raised the money through an online fundraiser after reading about the idea on Twitter. After launching the GoFundMe page on March 17, a dozen generous donors contributed before she ended the campaign last week. She initially hoped to erase the district's entire debt, but was satisfied she was able to help out the 10 students who owed the most money.

“I was on Twitter and I saw a Tweet about how people can give back to their communities by paying off student lunches,” Zottoli said. “It's a simple way to give back. So, I just decided to make a GoFundMe and start raising money. It was simple enough, so I figured it can't hurt. Even if I raise money to help one kid out it's still something.”

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Norma Zeller, food services manager for Somers Central School District, said the district's lunch debt changes every day, but, as of Monday, was about $1,100. Most students, she said, owe only a handful of dollars, usually forgetting their lunch money at home. But for some students, even small debts can weigh heavy.

“Some of them were graduating seniors and they don't have to worry about paying those off before they graduate,” Zeller said. “I think those kids have been carrying that for a while and it was just nice to clear them all up.”

Zeller said the district's lunch debt used to be a much larger figure, sometimes reaching as high as $6,000. It has come down in recent years since the district implemented a cap on borrowing money.

Zottoli said she hopes her $258 donation will bring attention to an issue people rarely consider.

“I think it's overlooked a lot and not really thought about,” she said.

Zeller said she did not specifically notify the 10 students whose debts were paid. Every Friday, she said, automatic notifications are sent out to students who owe more than a certain amount of money.

“Those people, for the first time in a very long time, did not get a reminder,” Zeller said.

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