By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News
December 4, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Leon County Schools administrators say starting next school year, all 23 elementary schools in the Leon County School District will offer free meals for all students.
It's a big change from the current school year, where many schools had lunch accounts in the red.
Not anymore. Some anonymous donors have stepped in to help pay the tab.
WCTV originally reported Monday that an anonymous donor paid $1,500 toward the debt from school meals.
We've learned another anonymous donor came forward Tuesday and gave $2,500.
A third person anonymously paid an additional $1,000 Wednesday.
Chris Petley, the spokesperson for Leon County Schools, says the $5,000 completely wipes out the full debt.
Breakfast and lunch are free for all kids at Sabal Palm Elementary School.
But, Cafeteria Manager Sabrina Rogers says she sees a different story when she has to fill in at some other schools.
When some students type in their PIN during meal time: "It shows up red if they don't have money in their account. I was like, have you already eaten? They were like, no. Why is your number showing up rain? It's because they don't have money in their account," Rogers said.
Thanks to the anonymous donors, no one is in the red.
"That's great. I love it," said Rogers.
The district says all of the Title I schools have more than 40% of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Therefore, those 19 schools currently get free meals for the entire school.
Anicia Robinson, the principal at Sabal Palm, says getting a nutritious meal is vital for students.
"The kids won't want to learn if they're hungry. The kids can't learn if they're hungry. We want to make sure they're at their best all the time. This is just one little piece of developing the whole child," she said.
The latest records provided are from May 2019. They show 41 schools had negative balances, with a total of $5,054.76.
The largest individual total was $588.33 at Roberts Elementary.
"It can be 80 cents. It can be $5.40. But it all kind of accumulates throughout the district. We're thankful to folks that come in and help the parents. You never know what parents are going through, especially this time of year. I think that's who this helps the most," Petley said.
"That's wonderful. Thank you to whoever who did it," Rogers said.
As for the all free for all elementary schools deal starting next year, Petley says it will be taken care of through a district program. Therefore, there will be no burden on any individual school or parent.