Hayden girl erasing lunch debt

Amiah Van Hill, a 6-year-old Hayden second-grader, has started a GoFundMe page to erase all of the Gem State’s public school lunch debt — roughly $100,000. GoFundMe

A 6-year-old Hayden second-grader was featured in stories by ABC, the Los Angeles Times and Huffington Post after raising thousands of dollars to erase lunch debt in the Coeur d’Alene School District. But she’s not done yet.

Amiah Van Hill started a new GoFundMe page Nov. 8 to erase all of the Gem State’s public school lunch debt — roughly $100,000.

“She knows this isn’t just a problem in Coeur d’Alene, so she wants to keep going,” mother Rachel Van Hill said. “It’s hard for a 6-year-old to say ‘I’m done’ when she knows there are other kids who need help.”

“GoFundMe Kid Hero” Amiah started the page, “LEMONADE 4 LUNCH,” after completing fundraisers for her school and district.

Amiah initially raised $40 selling lemonade to erase lunch debt at her elementary school, then decided to extend the fundraiser to her entire district. With help from a previous GoFundMe page she raised the $23,000 necessary to eradicate the district’s lunch debt in two months.

The initial lemonade stand was born after Rachel told her daughter about a Seattle man who raised money to erase his district’s lunch debt as well.

“It opened the conversation about what lunch debt is, how some kids are effected, and she started asking questions: ‘Is that happening at my school?’” Rachel said.

The lunch debt issue has made headlines in eastern Idaho in recent years. In 2014, Jefferson Joint School District 251 revised its school lunch accounts policy to give students a longer grace period to refill their accounts. That move came after parents questioned the treatment of a Rigby Middle School student, whose lunch was taken away and thrown out in front of other students in the cafeteria.

In 2015, a school cafeteria worker in Pocatello was reportedly fired after she gave a hungry student a free lunch. That story received coverage nationwide.

Rachel said GoFundMe is working on a short documentary about her daughter. If Amiah reaches the goal, funds will be disbursed through the nonprofit World Impact Network.

Amiah still intends to hustle money for her current goal — a nearby bank offered her some space to sell lemonade during winter days off school — but she hopes the page will catch on. With only a few hundred dollars counted so far, there’s quite a ways to go.

“I try to put it in perspective that it’s a bigger goal that will take longer,” Rachel said. “But she knows there’s a continued need and she wants to do her part. She wants every kid to have a hot lunch at school.”

Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.