AUSTIN (KXAN) — A local church has committed more than $20,000 to pay off Austin Independent School District students’ lunch debt balances for the school year and to prevent more debt accruement until the school year ends.

Covenant Presbyterian Church said it would pay off the lunch debt that has accrued for all students in AISD during the 2022-23 school year, as well as provide the district with enough money that no student will accrue more debt for the remainder of the school year.

Here’s how that breaks down:

  • $14,000 is needed to erase all AISD lunch debt
  • An additional $10,000 is being applied to future debt

Covenant said it designates funds each year for missional giving. Previously, the church has helped pay for Central Texans’ medical debt and helped support wraparound services for people experiencing homelessness.

“Our hope is we fill a gap that other folks haven’t been able to fill, that kids have one less thing to be concerned about,” Mission Director Whitney Bell said.” We hope Covenant shows our school district that we love and care for all students, especially the kids stuck in the middle who can’t 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.

Bell said no children are going to have lunch debt for the school year.

“We are so grateful for the opportunity to do this,” she said. “It’s such a tangible way for us to show the City of Austin the depths of the love of God.”

Read more about the church’s initiative online.

School meal waiver enacted, expired since COVID-19

Last summer, a federal waiver that made school meals free to all students regardless of their family’s income came to an end. The free school meals program began in March 2020 when Congress authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue dozens of child nutrition waivers, before expiring June 30.

President Joe Biden signed the Keep Kids Fed Act a few days before, on June 25, extending some food assistance measures for children through the 2022-23 school year, but it did not continue the universal free school meals for all.

Free and reduced lunches were still available, but students had to qualify through an application process for the program.

AISD free meal program

AISD announced last fall that it would continue providing free breakfast and lunch for all students at 76 of its schools, a little more than half of the 116 total schools in the district.

The meals were funded through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program, a federally-funded meal service option for schools in low-income areas that allows districts to serve free meals to all enrolled students without any application or documentation.

Students at schools that are not eligible for the program were still able to purchase breakfast and lunch at low costs.

AISD Meal prices


  • Full Price (All Levels): $1.50
  • Reduced-Price (All Levels): $0.30
  • Adult/Guest: $2.75


  • Full Price – Elementary Schools: $3.15
  • Full Price – Middle & High Schools: $3.25
  • Reduced-Price (All Levels): $0.40
  • Adult/Guest: $4.50