- Associated Press - Friday, January 10, 2020

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee businesses, churches and nonprofits recently donated $46,000 toward unpaid meal debt in Rutherford County’s public schools.

The majority of the money came from B.H. Holmes Construction Co. Inc., which donated $39,200 to eight schools in La Vergne and Smyrna, The Daily News Journal reported.

“We had a really good year, and we just wanted to put it back into our community to make things easier for people around us,” said office manager Shauna Altizer, whose grandfather founded the company in 1981.

Even with the donation, students still owe more than $172,000 in meal debt. Last year, the schools had to cover $111,527 in unpaid meals.

The schools don’t withhold food from students that don’t have the money to pay for it, schools spokesman James Evans has said. For students who owe money, cafeteria managers try to determine if the family qualifies for the federal Free or Reduced Lunch Program.

“I think there’s a lot of different reasons that students end up with the debt,” Altizer said. “Everybody needs help sometimes, and children shouldn’t be the ones to suffer the consequences because of that.”

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