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Nonprofit seeks to reduce student lunch debt with Rockin’ Ogden benefit concert

By Ryan Aston - | Jun 3, 2024

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The Utah Empowerment Initiative is hosting a benefit concert for student lunch debt on Saturday, June 8, 2024, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.

OGDEN -- A local nonprofit is looking to support area students, families and schools through the power of rock and roll.

The Utah Empowerment Initiative -- a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Weber County -- will host a "Rockin' Ogden" benefit concert at Weber State University to help reduce Northern Utah's significant student lunch debt. The show, emanating from the Dee Events Center on Saturday, will feature platinum-selling rock band Hinder and Utah's own Late Night Savior.

All proceeds from the concert after production, overhead, security and other related costs will go toward paying off overdue lunch balances.

One of UEI's primary missions is to combat food insecurity in Northern Utah. According to Feeding America's latest Map the Meal Gap tracking data, 16.2% of children in Weber County were contending with food insecurity in 2022. That amounts to a food insecure population of nearly 12,000 children.

Per UEI President Tanner Workman, student lunch debt is one of the ways in which food insecurity manifests itself, and that issue in particular is greater than many realize.

"I think when a lot of people think of student lunch debt, they might think someone owes, like, $7 over, and they'll just pay it at the end of the year," Workman told the Standard-Examiner. "But I would bring attention to the fact that it's, like, a million-dollar thing every year."

Fox 13 reported May 8 that lunch debt in the Weber School District had ballooned to $136,591.38 in 2024, an increase of 37.6% over 2023's debt of $85,214.32. The news outlet reported a statewide debt of more than $2.8 million.

According to Workman, students holding lunch debt could be barred from participating in activities like field trips or even prevented from walking on graduation day; families with year-end debt also could find themselves in a debt collection process.

Tickets for Rockin' Ogden can be purchased through the WSU ticket office. Student tickets are $25, general admission tickets are $30 and floor passes are available for $40. UEI also is accepting donations on the group's website at https://utahempowerment.org/donate/. Donations made through June 10 will go toward the school lunch initiative.

However, Workman notes that UEI isn't just looking for money; fostering a higher level of civic engagement throughout the community is equally important.

"Something that everyone can do is talk to the local representatives about this, or just talk to the schools, talk to the school board," he said. "This is a big issue, and I really don't think it has to be if we all can come together and say that we don't want to have to do this every year."

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