Early Christmas: Church pays off lunch debt for students in need in 3 counties

FILE PHOTO: An anonymous donor paid off $10,500 in meal debts for students at Guilford County Schools in North Carolina. (Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — It was an early Christmas for some metro Atlanta families who have school lunch debt.

12Stone church, based in Lawrenceville, donated $62,000 to pay off students' lunch debt in three counties.

It's all part of a new program they are kicking off called Knock Out Hunger.

It's been several months since the school year started, but sometimes it can take a while for families to get approval for reduced or free school lunches. During that time, they rack up debt for the lunches that aren't yet covered and must pay that back when they're approved.

So, 12Stone Church announced to its congregation they're giving $45,000 to Gwinnett County schools to wipe out debt for parents caught in that limbo stage.

"We're excited because we believe this payment's going to give these families a fresh start and move forward with the free and reduced meal plan," said 12Stone Chief Financial Officer Norwood Davis.


"This is going to be a tremendous help to our school nutrition program. Obviously, it's helping those who have a need, and we just think it's a great thing for our schools and our community," said Gwinnett Schools spokesperson Sloan Roach.

The church is also giving money to two other school districts, where they have churches: $11,000 is going to Hall County to pay off lunch debt and $6,000 to Barrow County.

12Stone Church is planning to expand the Knock Out Hunger Program beyond the Christmas holiday. They are collecting food to help children in need throughout the school year

"They have needs over spring break. They have needs over the summer break, and we believe this is the beginning of a long-term project," Davis said.

Roach said in all, the total lunch debt for the students in limbo is $100,000 so the gift doesn't cover all of it but goes a long way.

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