About 1,000 children in the North East Independent School District don't have to worry about whether they can get a hot lunch at school.
Thanks to an anonymous $5,000 gift- the largest by an individual donor - all lunch balances have been wiped clean.
"We were just blown away when we received a call that there was interest in making a donation to negative lunch accounts," says Sharon Glosson, NEISD's executive director of school nutrition.
Longs Creek Elementary principal Amy Copes says several students at her school were directly impacted by the donation.
"That's one less thing for them to worry about. They can focus on other things," she says. "As a campus, we’re emphasizing kindness month. This .just fits right in with somebody anonymously doing a kind act for all of our students."
Parents were enthused about the new donation, which follows a similar $5,000 gift from Waterman Construction just a few months ago.
"It’s hard for students to learn when they’re hungry," says Christy Burguete, president of the Oak Meadow PTA.
"I have to remind my kids to not get the extra stuff every day, cause it does definitely add up."
She says she plans to pay it forward and make a donation to the school, citing the inspiration the anonymous donor provided. She also knows what it's like to have to pay off the escalating lunch debt.
"It's hard to pay the $50 payment or the $100 payment every couple of months," Burguete says.
There's also the stigma for kids who don't get a hot meal when they have a negative lunch balance. That's been erased.
"For a little while, you can still go through the line and accrue a negative balance," says Cameron Vickrey, a parent of an Oak Meadow student. "After a certain point, you can go through the line, but they just have to give you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You don't get a hot tray lunch. And kids notice."
School administrators say they have seen kids get embarrassed at lunch.
"If they have an outstanding balance to a certain amount, they receive a different lunch, which can cause embarrassment," Copes says. "They come through the line and want a cookie. The cookie is removed because they don’t have the funds. That’s embarrassing for them."
To rectify the situation, teachers have been known to come out of their own pockets to help.
"This is one of those things that contribute to kids not wanting to come to school," Vickrey says, "to not enjoying it, to not feeling welcome or comfortable. They may just choose to forego lunch altogether.
"A lot of teachers will see this and pay out of their own money."
Because of the latest donation, no elementary student had a lunch debt as of three days ago. But that will change as the school years continues.
Glosson says anyone wanting to make a donation to the lunch program can contact the NEISD nutrition department at 210-356-9100.
"Sometimes families need more than we can provide," she says.
Copes points out another benefit to make lunch even a little sweeter: "Every kid can get a cookie."
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