JOHNSTON, Iowa - Staff at the Johnston Elementary School District say they were left shocked after an anonymous donor paid the debts on student lunch accounts.
"Seeing an act like that come forward, and knowing it affected almost 150 students is something we haven't experienced here in this district," said Johnston Community School District communications director, Laura Sprague.
The donor gave a total of $13,250, according to WHO.
"We don't get anonymous donations a lot. We have donations come in occasionally, but to have a donation of this size from an anonymous person, and so specific in what it wanted to target - it truly meets a need that often goes unspoken," said Sprague.
In fact, several student accounts had exceeded a certain level.
"We do have many students that would have accounts that have exceeded a certain level, that we would have concerns about," said Timber Ridge Elementary School counselor, Jan Maronn. "And look closer, you know, what are the needs that that family has? And what can we do as a school to provide for their needs?"
Many see this as a sigh of relief for parents who may struggle to keep up with the debts, but staff say despite that, they'll never turn a child away from eating.
"The child is still able to eat, we do not turn anyone away from having food, as we know this may be their best source for nutritious food during the day," Sprague said.
"We do know that one out of five students come from food insecure homes," said Maronn. "Not necessarily here in Johnston, but definitely in our area. And so, it's important to understand that we're not any different than anyone else, and we have families that have that need."
This random act of kindness is one the district says they will always remember.
"When we think of the term, 'Pay it Forward,' this act is an incredible example of that," Sprague said. "And if they only knew how powerful it was to help kids have full bellies."