Large donation wipes out student lunch debts

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO - Four area Masonic Lodges came together Tuesday (Feb. 12) to pay off the negative balance from a local school district's lunch program.

"Masons believe in charity, and we believe in helping people," said Charlie Wiegert with Noble Lodge #684.

The School Lunch Debt Relief Program was started by local Masonic Lodges to make sure no St. Louis area student goes hungry. The program is now benefiting students statewide.

"I think that the two things people don't ever want to be is cold and hungry, and when you have a hungry child, I think that that should be something, a responsibility of everybody to help solve," said Kevin Keating, St. Louis Missouri Lodge #1.

Keating said since the program began in the fall of 2017, more than $150,000 have been donated to school districts to pay off negative lunch balances across the state of Missouri.

Last year, Keating said they paid off negative balances in the Rockwood and Parkway school districts.

A spokesperson with the Rockwood School District tells Fox 2, the Masonic Lodge donated $3,000 in 2018 towards outstanding lunch balances. The current balance among the 31 schools is $17,382.

A spokesperson with the Parkway School District reports a current outstanding balance of about $8,000.

While it is the Pattonville School District's policy to feed students every day regardless of balance, Food Services Director Kim Maas said the $10,912.89 donated by the Masons will go a long way to help Pattonville families.

"It's very important, especially being a mother myself, that we make sure our students are fed every day, and that they are able to learn and not worry about being hungry," said Maas.

Pattonville, Rockwood, and Parkway all offer free or reduced lunch programs for qualifying students.

The Rockwood School District also offers a program called "Random Acts of Kindness" which allows families to donate unused meal balances to students who have negative meal balances.  The Parkway School District also offers a way for students to donate unused meal balances.

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