Chobani CEO Donates Nearly $50,000 Towards Unpaid School Lunch Debt

Hamdi Ulukaya's donation draws attention to childhood hunger and "lunch shaming" in public schools.

Popular yogurt brand Chobani is coming to the aid of low-income families with unpaid school lunch debts.

CNN reports the company will pay $47,650 of the $77,000 debt racked up by more than 1,600 students at Warwick Public Schools in Rhode Island.

The school district received backlash locally and on social media when it announced that any students who had unpaid balances on their lunch accounts would receive a sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich until their balance was paid.

Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya decided to step in. He released a video statement on Twitter saying:

"When our children are strong, our families are stronger. And when our families are strong, our communities are stronger. Business can and must do its part to solve the hunger crisis in America and do its part in the communities they call home."

Ulukaya also said that children's access to nutritious and delicious food should be a right. He said Chobani will donate cups of yogurt to low-income families in the Warwick community.

CNN reports the "lunch shaming," or singling out children with school lunch debt is an issue drawing nationwide attention. In 2017, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced a bill which would outlaw "lunch shaming" policies, including forcing a student wear a special sticker or wristband, or providing cold sandwiches instead of the usual hot-meal offering.

Ulukaya, who came to the United States as a Kurdish immigrant and grew Chobani into a multi-billion dollar business, has made headlines before with his philanthropy--particularly benefitting refugees and children around the world. He has signed The Giving Pledge, promising to give away the majority of his wealth and encourage fellow business leaders to do the same.

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