Abilene moms raising money to pay off student meal debts

Abilene moms raising money for...

ABILENE, Texas - A group of Abilene moms are starting a movement to end childhood hunger within the Abilene Independent School District by collecting donations to pay off outstanding lunch accounts.

Kids in the Abilene school district pay close to $3 for meals every day. Children who attend the elementary schools pay $2.50 while kids in middle school and high school pay $2.75.

AISD allows elementary school students who have no money in their meal accounts to accrue a maximum debt of $6, while middle school and high school students can only have a debt of $2.75. After that, they’re offered a cheese sandwich with a piece of fruit or vegetable and milk for lunch.

The district is a little over $2,500 in the red due to the outstanding meal account balances.

Uluwehi Laurita-Urata has several children who attend AISD schools, and she said she first saw this issue when her daughter was told she didn’t have enough money her account to pay for both breakfast and lunch. Her daughter said she didn’t eat breakfast that morning.

Laurita-Urata then joined a group called Mommies 2 Mamas and discussed paying for kids who didn’t have any money in their accounts for lunch.

"Not just for my own children who attend the school, but for every other child that is hungry and needs to eat,” she said.

Yeni Roberts is one of the co-organizers of the group and said their goal is to help pay off the negative balance. Once that is paid off, they hope they can take their movement a step forward and assist in putting money in kids' accounts.

"This way more kids can actually eat and spare the embarrassment of here's your cheese sandwich or you know throwing their lunch away," Roberts said.

AISD Director of Student Nutrition Jay Towell said the district participates in a number of meal programs that allow students who qualify to have reduced or free lunch. Families on a need-based income qualify for those programs, and the district said about 70 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged.

The group is currently working with Towell and the school district to solidify a location where people can make donations and is also working on ways to raise enough money to cover the full amount.

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