Anonymous Texas Couple Pays Off Student Lunch Debts

A random act of kindness made a huge impression on one Texas community when an area couple walked into their local elementary school and paid off the outstanding lunch balances due for their students.

Rowe Lane Elementary Principal Ben O’Connor told KXAN he never before met the local couple who visited their Pflugerville Independent School District campus last week but the couple did so specifically to ask if they could write a check to pay off outstanding lunch debt for the elementary school with 960 students. O’Connor said the couple shared they did not have children who attended Rowe Lane Elementary but had a niece who did.

“You guys are our neighborhood school, so we thought, we want to drop by and do something,” the couple said, according to O’Connor. Reportedly, they saw a news story about someone who paid off student lunch balances and wanted to do the same for Rowe Lane Elementary students. The beneficent donors asked to retain their anonymity, also requesting that the principal not divulge the amount of lunch money they paid off. O’Connor told the Austin TV news outlet it was hundreds of dollars. He also acknowledged: “I was blown away.”

In recent weeks, other anonymous donors paid off lunch debts in other schools around the country, including in IowaWyoming, and New York.

Children from poor families get free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches, although many struggle to pay for these meals. In most Texas school districts, including Pflugerville ISD, students may charge reimbursable meals up to five dollars for elementary schools and six dollars in secondary schools before they are offered an alternative meal like a cheese or peanut butter sandwich because of non-payment. According to KTRK, when parents do not respond to school notices about overdrawn lunch accounts, that debt may be sent to a collection agency, although taxpayers often wind up covering the funds.

This is the time of the year, after the holidays, when families rack up the most lunchroom debt and the reasons they do not pay this obligation can be everything from financial to forgetting to add money to the meal account, said O’Connor.

“I just think it’s such a wonderful gesture this day and age,” noted Abby Jenson, who has two children at Rowe Lane Elementary. She read about the generosity on the parent-teacher organization’s (PTO) Facebook page. “I appreciate that they want to be anonymous, but I kind of wish we could all send them a thank you note.”

Ironically, February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day at Rowe Lane Elementary School, according to KXAN. O’Connor believes the generous gesture by the Pflugerville couple has inspired others in the community to think about ways they, too, can help another in need.

“I don’t know if they realized how far this would spread, but people are talking about this, people are asking, ‘hey, what can I do?’” added O’Connor, who pointed out one of the best ways to assist students is with the gift of time by reading to or mentoring these youngsters.

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