Government

'Lunch shaming' bill inspires kindergartner's donation

Davenport 5-year-old donates $30 from sale of her bike, allowance and sister

Kindergartner Nikki Hynes (center) eats her lunch at Wilson Elementary School in Davenport. After seeing a news report about Iowa’s “lunch shaming” bill, Nikki donated $30 — $20 from the sale of her bike, her $4 allowance and $6 from her older sister — to the school to cover the cost of hot lunches for students whose meal accounts are in the red. (Kevin E. Schmidt/Quad-City Times)
Kindergartner Nikki Hynes (center) eats her lunch at Wilson Elementary School in Davenport. After seeing a news report about Iowa’s “lunch shaming” bill, Nikki donated $30 — $20 from the sale of her bike, her $4 allowance and $6 from her older sister — to the school to cover the cost of hot lunches for students whose meal accounts are in the red. (Kevin E. Schmidt/Quad-City Times)

DAVENPORT — A kindergartner is proving to her family, friends and others at Wilson Elementary School in Davenport that every dollar makes a difference at lunchtime.

When 5-year-old Nicole Hynes, who goes by “Nikki,” learned her parents, Nate and Sheila Hynes, had sold her old bicycle earlier this month, she knew exactly where she wanted the money to go.

Nikki told her mom she wanted to donate the money to her school’s cafeteria to feed other students in need of hot lunches.

“I wanted to be kind,” said Nikki, who transferred $24 — $20 from the bike sale plus her weekly allowance of $4 — to the cafeteria staff on April 11.

The next day, Nikki brought an additional $6 she received from her older sister, Kristina. Their mother delivered another $20 contribution from family and friends.

“It really hit my heart hard,” Sheila Hynes said of her daughter’s decision. “It’s made everybody cry.”

School lunches at Wilson cost $2.50, so Nikki’s $30 donation will cover 12 hot lunches.

Her gift left cook Laura Walsh and cashier Cheryl Honeycutt, both grandmothers, dumbfounded.

“It was a shock to all of us,” Walsh said. “For a kindergartner, that’s a lot of money.”

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The school already used a portion of the money to buy meals for students with a zero or negative fund balance in their lunch accounts.

Forty-two percent of Wilson’s 470 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches because of low incomes. Student meal debt at all the district’s schools totals $1,598, a school spokesman said.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds last week signed a bill into law prohibiting schools from using “lunch shaming” tactics, including publicly identifying students whose parents owe money for lunches.

Wilson does not — and has not — identified children or otherwise punished them if their lunch accounts are in the red, the district spokesman said.

Nikki watched a TV news report about the Iowa Legislature’s handling of the issue with her great-great-grandmother, Bonnie, who is 94 and lives with the family.

“I think she saw it and thought, ‘There must be hungry children at my school, too,’ ” her mother said. “It would really bother Nikki to have a friend in need.”

Earlier this school year, for example, when her classroom’s supply of erasers ran dry, Nikki insisted on restocking it.

When she receives her weekly allowance for completing chores around the house, Nikki puts the money into three envelopes: one for saving, one for spending and one for giving. She normally takes money in the “giving” envelope to King’s Harvest No-Kill Pet Rescue or the Humane Society of Scott County, both in Davenport.

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Nikki’s classmates joined her in the cafeteria when she handed over her money “so they could see a friend was going above and beyond to do something for other people,” kindergarten teacher Janelle Vanerstrom said.

It inspired two of Nikki’s friends to follow suit, with each donating a dollar.

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