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Thursday, October 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Turning lemons into lunches: Hayden 7-year-old raises $23,000 to buy lunch for students

Amiah Van Hill, a 7-year-old from Hayden, Idaho, has been operating a lemonade stand to erase her school district's lunch debt. Celebrity chef and TV talk show host Rachael Ray is having Amiah on her show Wednesday. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Amiah Van Hill, a 7-year-old from Hayden, Idaho, has been operating a lemonade stand to erase her school district's lunch debt. Celebrity chef and TV talk show host Rachael Ray is having Amiah on her show Wednesday. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

On the side of a street in front of her parents’ house in Hayden, 7-year-old Amiah Van Hill opened a lemonade stand.

But she didn’t want to keep the money she earned from it. Instead, she wanted to pay for her schoolmates’ lunches.

That was less than a year ago, and since then, she has earned over $23,000 in donations to pay off the entire Coeur d’Alene School District’s debt for offering lunches to students. On Wednesday, her story will land on national television with one of the biggest celebrity chefs — Rachael Ray.

Amiah was inspired to help pay for student lunches when her mom, Rachel Van Hill, read her an article about a similar effort in Seattle by Jeffery Lew, a dad who wanted to pay for the entire state of Washington’s school lunch debt — including Spokane, which he eventually did.

Rachel Van Hill said Amiah started asking questions about the article and about impoverished students, and she was sad to hear that some kids are stuck with a cheese sandwich and a carton of milk, and their parents go in to debt for it.

Now Amiah is aiming to pay off school lunch debt for the entire state of Idaho on her GoFundMe page, which has a goal of $100,000.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” Amiah said. “You can change the world.”

Amiah flew to New York last week to prerecord the segment with Ray, an advocate for promoting healthy lunches at schools, in front of a live studio audience.

“Rachel (Ray) has the exact same passion as Amiah,” her mom said.

You can catch Amiah at her Lemonade 4 Lunches stand occasionally at some branches of Mountain West Bank, in Hayden. And while Amiah hasn’t scheduled her next showing, her Facebook page will be up to date on where and when she shows up.

Amiah, a student at Hayden Meadows Elementary School, doesn’t know now far it will go, but she hasn’t ruled out a national campaign to pay for school lunch debt.

“All the other states might need help,” she said.

Amiah’s dad, Chad Van Hill, said he hopes Amiah lets her success with the school lunches carry compassion with her for the rest of her life.

“Sometimes, as a parent, you’re wondering if you’re doing the right thing,” he said. “And then (Amiah) goes and does something like this, and I feel like I’ve helped her accomplish something.”

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