WARWICK, R.I. — Chobani Yogurt Company has offered to pay off thousands of dollars of a school district's debt so that the Rhode Island schools can provide all of its students healthy meals.
Officials say unpaid lunch debts from low-income students put Warwick County schools $77,000 in the red.
Chobani's donation came in response to news reports that children on free or reduced lunch would be given a "jelly" sandwich, instead of a hot meal — until their debt is paid.
The school district later put the policy on hold - but Chobani says it still wants to pay off the debt to bring national awareness to the hunger crisis.
Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya said in a statement Thursday that as a parent, the news broke his heart. He says access to nutritious food should be a right, not a privilege.
"Lunch shaming" continues to be a huge problem in public schools nationwide. Maine legislators recently approved a bill that forces school districts to ensure students are fed a meal whether or not they are able to pay.
Chobani has also pledged to donate cups and bottles of its Greek Yogurt to the Warwick community.
Ulukaya challenged other companies to follow Chobani's lead and donate needed funds.