Northwest Area Jaycees school lunch

The Northwest Area Jaycees are working to eliminate school lunch debt at Little Mountain Elementary School in Monticello. A presentation was made at the May 20 school board meeting. Pictured from left to right are Little Mountain Principal Gabe Hackett, Jed Sager of the Northwest Area Jaycees and Supt. Eric Olson.


A Twin Cities-based civic organization is trying to make sure some families in the Monticello School District are not burdened with meal costs.

The Northwest Area Jaycees have made a generous donation to Little Mountain Elementary School that is intended to help erase debt owed by financially-strapped families on school lunch accounts.

The Northwest Area Jaycees has about 30 members, and three from Monticello, according to Jaycees member Troy Nygaard.

About eight months ago, the Jaycees established a small charitable gambling operation at the Monticello Applebees. Through proceeds from the pull-tab games, the Jaycees’ goal is to help pay off school lunch debt locally, he said.

It’s something the Jaycees have been doing throughout their service area. On May 13, the Northwest Area Jaycees paid off the school debt in its entirety in the Rogers School District, Nygaard said. 

“We also did it in Robbinsdale. Now we’d like to do it in Monticello,” Nygaard said.

The service organization has made a $2,000 donation towards the lunch debt at Little Mountain. 

Principal Gabe Hackett said the entire debt is about $4,000.

“We hope to pay that off by the start of the next school year,” Nygaard said.

“It’s a true concern to our families,” Hackett said of the school lunch debt. 

Hackett said in Monticello, the school district does not deny any student a school lunch- and because a struggling family knows that their children will be fed, paying the lunch bill can sometimes become less of a priority when other bills are mounting.

“But we have to find a way to pay it at some point,” he said.

That’s why the Jaycees’ donation will make a world of difference to some Little Mountain families, Hackett says.

Superintendent Eric Olson said he remembers a day when lunch debt wasn’t allowed to accumulate and students of offending-families were given less-than healthy lunches to get through the day.

“That included giving students a butter sandwich and a carrot or an apple,” Olson said.

Today, the school district employs a no-shaming policy where all students are fed the same meal so fellow classmates can’t tell which students and families have lunch accounts in arrears, Olson said.

And while Little Mountain’s lunch debt stood at $4,000 before the Jaycees donation, that debt stands at about $20,000 school district-wide, Olson said.

Reach Jeff Hage at


Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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