Let it never be said that even young children can’t see injustice in the world, nor are they powerless to do anything about it.
When 8-year-old Cayden Taipalus saw that some of this fellow classmates at school were forced to forgo hot meals because their lunch account balances had dipped into the negative, he came home upset. His school’s policy was to allow students to go $5 into the negative before replacing their regular hot meals with cheese sandwiches and milk, according to Tom Gould, director of public relations for the Howell Public School District where Cayden attends.
“Like a lot of districts, we use accounts where parents add money to their students’ accounts,” Gould said, explaining that parents are notified when their child has a negative balance. [source]
But it’s a problem that faces many students, with some children’s parents unable to afford to ever get them out of the negative. When he got home from school that day, he told his mother that he felt like it was unfair that some kids weren’t being served hot meals and instead had to eat cheese sandwiches because their lunch accounts had no money in them.
“I just want to make kids have a better lunch,” he told TODAY.com.
So he decided to do something about it. First, he and his mom began to collect empty bottles and cans and exchanging them as part of a recycling program. That got him about $64, and bought about 150 lunches. Pretty impressive for an 8-year-old, but Cayden was just warming up.
After he got a little local press for his act of kindness, people began contacting his family asking what they could do to help. Seeing an opportunity to make a bid difference, he started a campaign on an online fundraising site that got money to put towards his schools lunch program. The dollars began pouring in.
Hundreds of people from across the United States and abroad have donated, pitching in a staggering $10,800 to the cause so far. That’s enough money to pay for well over 4,000 school lunches. Cheese sandwiches will be a distant memory. Cayden probably just got a lot more friends around the school yard.
Clearly the project has outgrown it’s original purpose, so instead of calling it a day, Cayden and his mother have begun going to other schools to pay off their account balances too. Cayden says his goal is to raise enough money to help all students in his county.
Mother and son returned to two other schools last week to pay off lunch accounts, and will visit three more this week to spend the funds they’ve collected so far on FundRazr. They plan on adding extra funds to each overdue account, ensuring those students can get hot lunches for days to come. [source]
Cayden may be the youngest, but he makes up a growing trend of people who have tackled the problem of unpaid lunch accounts. After several stories recently revealed schools withholding food from kids who could not afford lunch and in one case even throwing out the food the children had already been served hundreds of individuals across the country have made contributions to their school districts in order to never allow a child to go hungry or be shamed because his or her parents didn’t pay their lunch bill.