Andrew Levy, a West Palm Beach resident and real estate agent with Echo Fine Properties, paid off nearly $950 in student lunch debt across nine Florida schools in Jupiter on Tuesday.

Almost $1,000 in Jupiter-area student lunch debt was wiped out Tuesday when a north county real estate agent cut a check to the Palm Beach County School District.

The $944.34 donation cleared all the outstanding lunch debt at Jupiter’s eight public schools, and at nearby Jupiter Farms Elementary, said Allison Monbleau, the district’s school food service director. In all, 430 students were helped, Monbleau said.

Andrew Levy, 51, said he’s explored the idea of donating the money since August, when he came across a post about the lunch debt on Facebook.

At the time, he recalled, the debt stood at about $800. He knew he could make it work.

“I thought, that’s a small sum to assure that children can freely eat and not have to worry and ask their parents to pay the bills and all that stuff. ... I thought, if it’s just going to take that amount to do it, I’m going to do it,” said Levy, a real estate professional with Echo Fine Properties in Palm Beach Gardens.

He considered it a simple matter of doing the right thing.

“I just thought, you know what, you can’t learn hungry,” he said.

Levy, who lives in West Palm Beach but primarily works with properties in the Jupiter area, said he met with district staff Tuesday and was impressed by how seriously they take the issue.

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"We are so thankful, so touched,“ Monbleau said. ”It is amazing to see our community members and partners come out (and donate).“

Full-priced lunch is $2.05 at elementary schools and $2.30 at middle and high schools in the Palm Beach County School District. Monbleau said members of the public can donate to pay off student lunch debt by filling out a form on the district’s website.

Palm Beach County public school students with debt still receive lunches, though there are modifications.

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Kids at elementary schools receive a turkey and cheese sandwich — an item debt-free students can still order — with regular sides, said Julie Houston Trieste, district spokeswoman. Cafeterias provide older students with a lunch consisting of a cheese sandwich with milk or juice, she added.

Debt can accrue from grade-to-grade, but Monbleau said paying it off is not currently a requirement for attending graduation.

“Everybody falls on hard times,” she said.

Student lunch debt and efforts to pay it off have been a hot topic both locally and nationwide in recent years. The Rotary Club of Wellington donated $20,000 to the Palm Beach County School District two years ago to pay off debt for more than 10,000 students.

After writing the check Tuesday, Levy said he’s determined to keep the philanthropy going. He plans to set up a page on fundraising website GoFundMe.com where people can donate quarterly to pay off the Jupiter-area lunch debt. Any excess money will go toward the district’s wellness program, he said.

He credited his now-deceased father, Bernard Levy, for instilling in him a passion for helping others — particularly children.

The elder Levy was a founding board member of Zero to Three, a D.C.-based non-profit focused on health and development in young children.

“It all comes down to children: They need as much help as they can get,” Andrew Levy said. “If I can do this one thing and continue it and help it grow, that to me would be the great benefit to giving back to the Jupiter community.”

showard@pbpost.com

@SamuelHHoward

This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.