Man challenges community to 'Grab the Tab' for student lunch debt

Event to benefit Nassau County school lunch fund planned for Sunday

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Students struggling with school lunch debt is a problem that's gaining attention around the country as districts navigate the best way to handle the mounting bills while still getting their students nutritious meals.

Inspired by a recent effort from a Southeast Georgia business to contribute to the lunch balances in its district, a Nassau County man is organizing a fundraiser this weekend in hopes of wiping out the school lunch debt for students in the county.

Mark Puca said when he first checked with the district's accountant, the lunch debt for schools in Callahan, Hilliard, Bryceville, Fernandina Beach and Yulee totaled $6,300. But that number has already jumped to $7,800.

“It's my understanding that that is the lowest it's been most of this year, and it's anticipated that it will grow as the months come," Puca said.

He said he was motivated to act after a tattoo parlor's recent fundraiser in St. Marys that was focused on raising money to pay off school lunch debts in Camden County. The event raised over $8,000.

Puca's fundraiser is dubbed "Let's Grab the Tab.”

The event, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at the Green Turtle Tavern in Fernandina Beach, will include a silent auction, raffles, drink specials and more.

Puca and fellow organizer Mark Gearis said the event is a good way for local residents and businesses to pay it forward for the district's many children in need of a hand.

"It does effect so many different types of people. It effects your neighbor, your friends, family. Even if you don't directly know that it does, it does,” Gearis said. “Just to realize that you're coming out for a cause that affects everybody, and we can all get together and knock it out.”

Puca said all the proceeds from the event will go to the Nassau County school lunch program.

“We're hoping for an amazing turnout. We'd like to double, triple, quadruple whatever the outstanding debt is today just for future purposes," Puca said.

In less than 24 hours, the fundraiser received commitments from 12 local businesses to help out with the event. 

If you're a business owner, manager or someone who would like to donate money, services or items for the silent auction or raffle you can email markpuca@gmail.com for details. 

If you're interested in donating, you can make checks out to NCSB Food Service and include "Let's Grab the Tab" in the "For" line on the check. 

For more information on the fundraiser, click here.

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