What's happening

Covenant Presbyterian Church has made it possible for all students to have school lunches at Austin ISD for the remainder of the 2022-23 school year.

The church is paying just over $14,000 to erase all AISD student lunch debt throughout the district. An additional $10,000 has been applied to cover future lunch debt.

Filling a gap

"Our hope is we fill a gap that other folks have not been able to fill, that kids have one less thing to be concerned about," Mission Director Whitney Bell said.

Bell said a number of AISD schools participate in the community eligible provision programs that help students enrolled in those schools automatically receive free meals. Families in other AISD schools must apply for free or reduced lunches. According to the School Nutrition Association, students from families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty level are eligible for free lunches. Those from families with incomes between 130%-185% of the federal poverty level are eligible for reduced-price lunches, Bell said.

Why they did it

Bell said it is the church's hope to show the district's families that they care for all students—especially the ones who are stuck in the middle and cannot afford lunch, but may not qualify for free or reduced lunch.

"The fact that this is a gift given to every student who qualifies—no strings attached—embodies the free and unmerited grace we have all received and is the foundation of our Christian faith," Senior Pastor Thomas Daniel said. "Who knows how it might spread the gospel to people in parts of our city that might not otherwise know about the love of Jesus?"

For more information about the initiative to help Austin ISD students receive school lunches, visit www.covenant.org/lunch.