Want to pay off a student’s lunch account in Austin? Here’s how

Editor’s note: In just 24 hours after this post was published, AISD received more than $10,000 in donations to pay off student lunch debt, but the issue is far from resolved. Click here to find out more and how you can help other students in Central Texas.

Millions of kids across America rely on school lunches for their main meal of the day, but what happens if they can’t afford it?

Many of them are enrolled in a free/reduced lunch program that either partially or entirely covers the cost of their lunch and sometimes breakfast at school, but plenty of other students either haven’t applied for the program or their parents make too much money to qualify but still struggle to pay off the account.

As news of lunch-shaming spreads — New Mexico garnered headlines last week as the most recent state to outlaw the practice of forcing kids to clean tables or otherwise “earn” their lunch, often in humiliating ways — I’ve heard plenty of people asking how they might pay off a low-income student’s lunch balance.

I reached out to AISD today to find out.

Austin ISD serves about 80,000 meals a day, including about 700 to students who are far enough behind in paying for their lunches that they receive a “courtesy” meal that the district absorbs into its operating costs. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Of the 80,000 meals served through AISD each day, about 700 of them are “courtesy” meals — peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, milk and a vegetable for elementary students, and a salad and milk in middle and high schools — for students whose balance has fallen below zero.

Those meals add up to $350,000 per year that the food service department tries to absorb into its budget, but after receiving so many requests this year from people who wanted to help out, they started a crowdfunding campaign through EdBacker.com to help cover the costs. You can click on this link to donate to the general fund to help cover these courtesy meals and pay off the balances of some students throughout the district.

If you want to donate directly to a school, you can also stop by the front office to make a donation for a single student.

“Those wanting to help out are more that welcome to visit their neighborhood schools to contribute to help bring negative balances current at that location.  Cafeteria managers on each campus are able to accept these donations,” says Anneliese Tanner, director of AISD’s nutrition and food services department. “The EdBacker was setup to create an easy way for people to help out across the entire district, which also helps to offset the donations that may be more plentiful in neighborhoods with more resources.”

On Twitter, I heard from freelance writer Melanie Haupt, whose community gathered enough donations to cover the outstanding balances of every student in their school.

MORE: New Mexico Outlaws School ‘Lunch Shaming’

MORE: Watching What We Eat: On the complicated politics of the school cafeteria

From Del Valle ISD:

In Del Valle, students are able to have a negative balance for up to six meals. Once that is met, the students are then provided an alternative complete meal (food can vary). All DVISD students are already provided a free breakfast and, if they’re staying for after-school enrichment, a free dinner.

If someone would like to help pay off a school lunch balance at DVISD, they can drop off a check written to Del Valle ISD at any school OR they can mail a check to the district at 5301 Ross Road, Del Valle, TX, 78617. In the Memo section of the check, they would need to add “negative lunch balances.”

Do you remember lunch shaming when you were in school? Have you ever paid off a student’s balance?

 

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