GREENSBORO — Thanks to a series of anonymous donations, no student in Guilford County Schools owes money for previous unpaid meals.
Late last week, a married couple offered to pay $32,228.25 — the remaining lunch debt for the entire school system.
It marked the third such donation announced in a two-week period.
Two weeks ago, the school district said that an anonymous donor had paid off $10,500 in school meal debt for the schools in High Point.
A week later, another donor wrote a check for $3,800 to pay the debt for the schools in Jamestown.
In all, the anonymous donors covered more than $46,500 in unpaid meals.
The latest gift shows “how one act of kindness can quickly spread throughout an entire community," Angie Henry, the district's chief financial officer, said Tuesday in a news release.
Walker Sanders, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, said the couple that made the latest donation had been moved by seeing the similar stories recently and saw an opportunity to help out families in their own community.
The community foundation is involved because the couple used what is called a "donor-advised fund."
Such funds, set up by a donor at a public charity, allow the donor to receive charitable tax-deduction benefits up front. The donor then can recommend grants from their fund over time.
“They were really excited and pleased to be able to do this," Sanders said. "They felt it was important."
Henry said previously that district policy allows elementary and middle school students to charge up to five lunches and five breakfasts. After that, if they can’t pay, Henry said, the cafeterias give them a pared down, cheaper version of the daily meal.
Many students qualify for federally-funded free meals based on family need, or they go to a school in a high-poverty area where free lunch is offered for everyone. Those students don’t have to worry about this issue, Henry said.
However, she said, some families experience a dramatic change to their finances in the middle of the year. They may not know that they can and should apply for free or reduced price lunch when that happens, rather than sending students to school without.
If the donors had not stepped in, the district would have had to cover the meal debt. Anything not collected by Sept. 30 would have come out of the district’s general fund.
"Today that’s completely gone," Henry said of the more than $46,500 in meal debt. "I know our students and parents appreciate the generosity of our community and these donors.”