TWIN FALLS, Idaho – Families with outstanding lunch debt in the Twin Falls School District won’t have to worry about their 2018-19 bill, thanks to Chobani.

The yogurt giant offered earlier this week to pay the district lunch debt for the 2018-19 school year, district spokeswoman Eva Craner said on Wednesday.

That debt has added up to more than $85,000, she said. When students don’t pay their debt, the district is forced to cover it, but that takes money away from other areas where funding could improve education.

The district is preparing letters to send out to families who had not paid their lunch debt by June 11, informing them that their bill has been covered. Another letter will be prepared later this summer to alert families of other payments they still may owe to the district.

Craner explained that the lunch debt that Chobani is paying off is only for the 2018-19 school year and does not cover other debts families may have with the district, such as library and other fees.

A report by the School Nutrition Association revealed that in 2018 about 75 percent of school districts nationwide had unpaid meal debt. That's something that caught the company's attention, though helping to improve child nutrition is nothing new to the yogurt giant.

On May 9, Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya tweeted that the company would pay the unpaid lunch debt at a school district in Rhode Island. That bill was nearly $50,000.

Chobani said in an email sent to News Radio 1310 that it has been working to help improve child nutrition for several years through partnerships with various agencies and organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture's school meals program.

“Better food for more people is our mission, and no one deserves that more than children,” the company said in a statement. “When we learned just how pervasive this issue is, we knew we needed to help raise awareness and eliminate this issue. Our communities are at the heart of everything we do, so we’re honored to do our part here in our backyard.”

Craner said the Twin Falls district appreciates Chobani's generous offer, a donation that benefits both families and the district.

“We’re very grateful to have a community partner like Chobani who takes the time to understand the challenges of the public school district and who has stepped up to help in this situation,” Craner said. “I’m sure the families impacted by this will feel the same way.”

Free and Reduced Lunches
Craner said a number of schools in the district offer free breakfast and lunch to students through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision. Schools include:

Bickel Elementary School, Harrison Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School, Morningside Elementary School, Oregon Trail Elementary School, Perrine Elementary School, South Hills Middle School, Bridge Academy, and Magic Valley High School.

Families who want to participate in the free and reduced lunch program for the 2019-20 school year will need to fill out an application, which will be available on the district’s website starting July 1.

School lunch prices for other schools in the district are as follows:

Elementary School
Breakfast $1.50
Second Breakfast $1.75
Lunch $2.85
Second Lunch $3.10

Middle School
Breakfast $1.75
Second Breakfast $2.00
Lunch $3.10
Second Lunch $3.35

High School
Breakfast $1.75
Second Breakfast $2.00
Lunch $3.35
Second Lunch $3.60