A Farmington Hills credit union paid off $43,000 in lunch debt for 4,045 students in 20 school districts across the state this month.

Community Choice Credit Union made the donations in July from the credit union’s community outreach fund earmarked for community events that were cancelled earlier this year.

“This is likely going to be an extraordinary start to the school year after last year ended so abruptly,” said Jeremy Cybulski, community engagement manager at Community Choice.

“On top of that, you have the added expenses of starting a school year, like purchasing school supplies, uniforms, or new clothes for growing kids. So, if we can remove the stress of also having to pay off a school lunch bill from last year, we’re happy to do it.”

The Credit Union paid off the balances for all students in 13 Michigan districts, including Huron Valley Schools, South Lyon Public Schools, Ferndale Schools, Wayne Westland Schools, Livonia Schools and Eastpointe Community Schools.

Carolyn Thomas, child nutrition consultant for the Macomb Intermediate School District, said Community Choice paid the balance for 184 children in her district.

“I heard from several families after we told them that their negative balance had been cleared by this donation,” Thomas said. “They were so grateful. It was such a welcome message to be able to let them know that they didn’t have to worry anymore. Especially now, when more people have lost their jobs and they’re really looking to just meet their basic needs.”

Debt was also settled for seniors at Southfield High School for the Arts & Technology, two elementary schools in the Warren Consolidated district and two schools in the Jackson County Intermediate School District.

According to the national School Nutrition Association, unpaid meal debts have become a growing problem for schools. The 2019 Trends Report found 75% of responding districts report having unpaid student meal debt at the end of the 2017/18 school year.

jchambers@detroitnews.com

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