Ben Hofer, the 15-year-old founder of LunchCounts! and student at St. Andrews High School in Austin, donated over $4,000 to pay off lunch debts at two Del Valle ISD schools. LunchCounts! has raised more than $16,000 in the last two academic years to help reduce school lunch debt in the Austin area. His contribution to DVISD pays the majority of student lunch debt at Del Valle Middle School ($968.48) and Del Valle High School ($3,301.52).

“I became interested in lunch debt because of an article my mother sent me about ‘lunch shaming’ in the U.S.,” said Ben. “While I found out that lunch shaming in central Texas is rare, there are still many, many kids with school lunch debt in the state. I know that lunch is very important to a kid’s well being, and I did not want parents worrying about whether their child was able to have a healthy lunch or not.”

By sharing his LunchCounts! GoFundMe page across social media, via email and by word of mouth with friends and family, Ben has been able to unite hundreds of people in supporting his mission of reducing school lunch debt. Many donors are local to Central Texas; however, his efforts also reach beyond the borders of Texas’ border into other states. Most donors contributed an average of $25-$50, with a few donating several hundred dollars. These donations quickly added up to thousands of dollars to support students in Central Texas. Jack Allen’s Kitchen and TacoDeli also contributed gift cards to some of the largest donors.

“I learned a lot from doing this. First, I learned that even kids can set up a fundraiser and get people to donate. The most important thing I realized was that kids can really make a difference and that people want to help, but they don’t always know how or don’t think small amounts will do much,” noted Ben. “With my project, I wasn’t trying to raise millions of dollars. I just wanted to pay off lunch debt at several schools, and I think by listing the amounts at each school that I was shooting for, people realized that small donations would go a long way to pay off the debt eventually.

While Ben’s LunchCounts! fundraising efforts have finished for this school year, he intends to continue his efforts next holiday season. To learn more about the first and second LunchCounts! campaigns, please click the links below

Portrait of Ben Hofer smiling in front of book shelf          Ben Hofer presenting LunchCounts! check