A thoroughly modern solution to what should be an outdated problem.

By Tim Nelson
Updated July 29, 2020
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In recent years, you’ve probably heard of the concept of “school lunch debt”. In any just society, it would be considered a massive failure of our education system to provide for students whose families are just far enough above the federal poverty line to not qualify for assistance. But here in this reality, it’s a fact of life for the thousands if not millions of students who have to skip meals and suffer the public shaming of coming from a family who can’t keep up with school meal costs that can reach up to more than $700 a year.

So although the problem of school lunch debt shouldn’t exist in the first place, it’s worth saluting one teacher’s creative approach to tackling the problem using a digital platform popular among today’s youths. Recently, Omaha-area teacher Zachary McCarter organized a fundraiser on Twitch called “All Kids Deserve to Eat” which found McCarter and others using the video game streaming platform to reel in viewers who were encouraged to make donations.

McCarter, who goes by “Jaychalke” on Twitch, told Kotaku that he initially planned a one-day marathon “speedrun”, where he and other streamers would try to beat classic video games as quickly as possible. The initial goal was to raise $13,000, enough to eradicate the total school lunch debt at a Ralston, Nebraska elementary school. However, interest was so great that they ended up streaming on Twitch for 26 hours over five days, raising more than $16,000 in the process.

Credit: DebbiSmirnoff/Getty Images

DebbiSmirnoff/Getty Images

As someone who suffered the stigma and sharp hunger pangs associated with school lunch debt himself, McCarter says he hopes to turn All Kids Deserve to Eat into a larger nonprofit organization that can broaden its efforts and move school lunch debt from the present to the past tense.

“The biggest reason for that is, you look around at the different [nonprofits], and there really isn’t anything that focuses on lunch, specifically,” he told Kotaku. “There are great organizations for other things education-related related to feeding children, but I wanted something that focused on that lunch aspect.”

The fact that teachers like McCarter even need to put on fundraisers to buy classroom supplies or help kids get the nutrition they need to thrive at school is an indictment of America’s budget priorities. But until more fundamental change comes, it’s at least good to know that gaming on Twitch, something that’s probably kept kids across the country from doing their homework this year, can actually be put to good use.