After a story about a boy bringing lunch for his classmate went viral, Reddit responded.

Josette Duran didn't expect her story of kindness, compassion, and sandwiches to go viral, but it's not hard to see why it did.

A bagged lunch. Photo by Henry Kellner/Wikimedia Commons.

In early September, Duran's son Dylan asked her if she would start packing him two lunches to take to school. Worried she wasn't feeding him enough, Dylan quickly laid those concerns to rest.


"Mom it's for this boy," Josette wrote on her Facebook page, recalling her conversation with her son. "He only eats a fruit cup for lunch can you make him lunch too? I don't think he has lunch money."

Josette told ABC News that she sent Dylan to school with extra sandwiches, yogurt, and chips for two months. When the boy's mother found out, she asked the school to call Josette so she could thank her in person and offer to reimburse her — but Josette said she declined.

"This hits home to me because a few years ago, me and my son were homeless," Josette said. "I was living in my car, I was washing him in bathrooms, and we didn’t have food."

The story was posted to Reddit, where it received hundreds of comments. One user recalled how their parents helped feed their friends when they were in grade school.

"My mom gave me $3 for lunch every day, which was $3 more than my best friend's mom gave him. That was enough to buy a Pizza Hut personal pizza, so we shared one of those every single day at lunch. I never thought about it much back then — I shared with him like I shared with my brothers, it was a given — but when we were in our 40s he told me how much it meant to him that I shared my lunch with him every day. He told me that he loved my mom and dad because they took care of him too. That meant the world to me."

Another jumped in to say "thank you" to the classmates who fed him.

"Coming from a guy that has a best friend that did this for me. Thank you. He saw it as nothing as well, I can never repay him for how much it meant to me. Even when my mother kicked me out at 16, I lived in his backyard in a tent and every time his father would leave, I would come in to eat, shower etc. He's still my best friend 28 years later and one of the only dudes I truly love to death."

One wondered why there isn't a better system in place to provide food for children whose parents are struggling.

Photo via iStock.

"My mom paid for my best friends lunch for 3 years in middle school because her parents believed that she didn't get hungry at school (read: they didn't give a shit about her). It's so sad to me that so many children don't get lunches at school. There really needs to be a system that will give a hungry child food no matter what. The kids can't help it if their parents don't feed them/make sure they get a lunch."

In response, a redditor recalled the shame that led them to lean on their friends for help.

"I knew we didn't have money so I never told my mom when I ran out of lunch money. One time I racked up a negative bill so bad they were going to not let me eat school lunch and they finally called my mom. When she came to pick me up she was crying at my school because she couldn't afford to pay it (she was working full time and didn't qualify for free lunch). My friends mom saw and paid it off plus added a chunk of money to it. I wasn't old enough to really appreciate the gesture, so I never said thanks. Will you tell your mom I said thanks, she didn't help me specifically but she helped somebody in the same situation so it might as well have been me."

One had a story about settling lunch debts for kids who owed the school:

"My son's school would literally give the students two packages of crackers (not cheese or peanut butter crackers, just regular crackers) and a carton of milk. Fortunately, my son never had to worry about that, but when I found out about it I started going into the school every month and paying up all the late accounts. It wasn't a major amount (the most I ever paid was around $23), but I couldn't bare the thought of one of these elementary kids eating that for lunch.
It really pissed me off that in the US we still have kids that are treated like that."

Which inspired another user to take action:

"I had a single mom, so we were poor when we were growing up. So poor that I actually feel guilty (I don't quite know how to describe the feeling but guilty is pretty close) that I'm married and that my child can grow up in a financially stable home.
I didn't know you could settle other children's lunch debts, and this is something that I want to do when it's time for my child to go to school. I'm glad I found out about this, thank you."

According to USDA, food insecurity affected at least 7 million American children in 2015.

Like the Reddit users who saw themselves in Josette and Dylan's story, these children lack access to affordable, nutritious food, they skip a meal every now and again to save money for other essentials, and others live in deep poverty.  

Like the Durans' Albuquerque school, many lunchrooms allow students to take a meal and pay later, but those who do accrue debt with the cafeteria frequently face stigma from peers and teachers. Some report feeling singled out when cafeteria workers remind them to pay. Others recall embarrassing lectures from school officials, and still others report having their lunches thrown away in front of them.

Some cities are trying to take the burden away from parents by stepping up to fill the holes in the USDA's National School Lunch Program, the main federal program that subsidizes meals for schoolchildren.

In 2014, New York City began offering free lunch — previously only available to the city's poorest children — to all middle school students. Baltimore followed suit in 2015.

New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray eating lunch with fifth-graders in 2014. Photo by Susan Watts-Pool/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, some in Congress are trying to make it harder for schools to serve students across the board.

In 2010, Congress — with wide bipartisan support — passed a bill establishing a "community eligibility" standard for school districts wishing to serve breakfast and lunch to their students at no cost. Under the provision, students would no longer have to apply for free meals individually by household. Instead, meals would be subsidized for the entire student body based on the district's level of need — determined by its percentage of at-risk students.

A bill introduced in April by Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana seeks to limit the program and make fewer schools eligible — by raising the threshold of needy students required for schools to qualify from 40% to 60%.

There are a lot of hungry kids in America, and — unfortunately — a limited number of parents like Josette Duran.

Individual efforts to pay it forward are heartwarming. They're inspiring. And they only go so far. Feeding all of America's kids means supporting policies that expand benefits for children like that boy in Albuquerque — and the politicians who expand those benefits.

Students eat free breakfast at Holy Ghost Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa, which recently qualified for federal community eligibility assistance. Photo by AP Photo/Telegraph Herald, Jessica Reilly.

Ensuring one child doesn't go hungry might take a concerned friend, a nosy neighbor, or a vigilant school.

Ensuring no child goes hungry? That takes all of us.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.