We’d like to introduce you to a badass mom of Long Beach today, Mary Sramek. Mary came to Long Beach when she married a Long Beach native in 2006, she’s a mother of two boys and founded Every Lunch Matters Long Beach in early 2018.
Every Lunch Matters Long Beach provides food vouchers to LBUSD when they are at risk to receive an “alternate meal”, which means kids can take a fruit and milk off their full tray of food and the rest of the tray is taken from them. This happens when a student doesn’t qualify for free meals, they have reached their maximum line of credit, or their parents are not funding their accounts or sending them to school with food.
After seeing a video online about cafeteria lunch shaming, Mary decided to look into the policy of her son’s school. “Once I learned about alternate meals, I started losing sleep,” she explains. “I could not imagine my five-year-old getting to the end of the lunch line and having his food taken away.” As a former teacher, she’s seen first-hand how hunger can affect student learning and concentration in class.
When she tried donating money to help these hungry kids who were watching their lunch leave their hands, she learned there was no easy way to help feed these kids. “I was determined to make an easy way for others to help by donating online,” adds Mary. So Every Lunch Matters Long Beach was born.
This program is the first of its kind and works to solve a problem that’s existed for a long time, but doesn’t get talked about because it mostly hurts underrepresented children. Even though alternate meals account for a quarter of a percent of all meals in the district, last school year, it happened over 7,000 times in LBUSD, according to Mary.
“I am incredibly proud that I am keeping food in the hands of children and allowing them to eat lunch with dignity,” she says. “I was able to get this fund up and running through a partnership with the Long Beach Community Foundation and the LBUSD Nutrition Services Department.”
As you might imagine starting a non-profit is no easy task. Starting a non-profit while parenting two kids, and working in an office, and serving as Chair of the Board of Directors for the LB Community Action Partnership, and attending CSULB’s MPA distance learning program… well, it’s takes a special kind of badass mom.
Share, share, share. Mary advises, “Because we are so new, the best thing people can do is get the word out that we exist. Liking and sharing on Facebook, telling their friends, sponsoring or referring a sponsor are all ways to be a supporter. Donations can be easily made online and can be directed to a specific school, if requested. If no school request is made, the donation goes to the next school on my most needy list.”
The organizations is working with 42 elementary and middle schools, within those schools they currently only have vouchers in five of them. “My next voucher milestone will be to see vouchers at all 42 schools, because alternate meals are given at even the most affluent schools in LB,” Mary explains. “We need sponsors to keep the fund going, so I’d like to work towards getting enough of them to sustain the fund long term.”
To support Every Lunch Matters Long Beach, visit their website.