Pasco County restaurant raising money to pay off school lunch debt for kids

Posted at 2:26 AM, Jul 11, 2017

A local pizza place is helping Pasco County kids get a healthy meal by raising money to pay off their school lunch debt.

George Agovino inspired the local pizza palace after he and his wife started paying off debts with their own money. They posted pictures posing with cafeteria staff on Facebook.

"No child should leave a lunch line feeling defeated," said Agovino.

It is why he and his wife started showing up and paying off negative lunch balances. The district says students racked up more than $43,000 in school lunch debt. That debt rolls over year-to-year.

"Obviously I like food," Agovino joked. "I want to make sure everybody eats. Being Italian - everybody has got to eat. That is our goal."

Steve Falabella, owner of 900 Degrees Woodfired Pizza, came up with a fundraiser idea and shared it with Agovino, who loved it.

He will donate 20 percent of your bill to Pasco County Schools on July 11 and 12 to anyone who buys a pizza and mentions school lunches.

"You don't want a child to get bullied because they can't afford lunch or they're not able to get a healthy lunch because of something that is completely out of their control," said Falabella.

After posting about the fundraiser on Facebook another local business wanted to help out. Tri-Care Services is going to match dollar for dollar no matter the cost.

A domino effect Agovino says is very rewarding. 

Other school district have school lunch debts, too. In Pinellas County, the lunch debt is significantly lower at  just $3,500. But Hillsborough County Schools has $82,000 worth of lunch debt rolling over year-to-year.

Hillsborough school leaders say more than 63 percent of their students qualify for free or reduced meals, but some parents never sign their kids up.

Pasco County parents can sign up online for the free or reduced school program by clicking HERE.