People are stealing donations that are used to purchase school lunches for less fortunate children in the Cayman Islands.
“I got a call from the owner of Burger King last week who said ‘did you know your donation boxes were gone?’” said Feed Our Future Chairwoman Stacey VanDevelde.
The charity Feed Our Future is a non-profit association that essentially pays for, or helps pay for, school meals for children in both public and private schools that qualify for assistance. Mrs. VanDevelde said that the charity now has a roster of 157 children that it feeds daily.
It wouldn’t be able to do that without funds left in the donation boxes in locations like the Burger King restaurants. “The boxes there do really well, it’s a pretty steady means of income,” said Mrs. VanDevelde. “People put a lot of money in. Sometimes we get $5, $10 bills. I’ve taken $25 bills out at times.”
Since last summer, the charity boxes have been stolen four times from Burger King establishments. Twice at the Walkers Road location, and twice last week from downtown George Town. The most recent thefts occurred on 26 March and were taken from the waterfront and Seven Mile Beach restaurant locations, she said.
“The thief was captured on video, same person [in] both places, and has been identified,” Mrs. VanDevelde said.
Last summer’s thefts at the Walkers Road location forced the charity to remove the boxes from there. Now, Mrs. VanDevelde said Feed Our Future is considering whether it should continue doing it at other locations.
The charity works with schools to identify areas where there is need. The government has its own school lunch programme as well, but funding for social services has been reduced during recent lean budget times.
“There are children that the schools point out to us that are going hungry,” she said.
In those cases, Feed Our Future will be presented with bills from the school and pay out of the funds collected by the charity for the needy school children. If those monies are stolen, the charity obviously has less to operate with.
“This action [referring to the four thefts] is just a disgrace,” she said. “Not to mention that someone would do this, or keep doing it, to the children in the own country. The person[s] are probably stealing from the hand that feeds a child in his community or family.”
According to Feed Our Future, more than 15 per cent of students enrolled in local government schools receive some lunch assistance.
“Many more children in our schools, both public and private, are in need,” according to the group’s website. “Their families have just not asked for or received help. A large number of Cayman’s teachers report that they regularly purchase food for students in their classroom who are not getting enough to eat at home.
“If children do not eat, they cannot learn.”