California Third-Grader Uses Allowance To Pay Off Lunch Debt For His Classmates

An elementary student in California used money saved from his allowance to pay off lunch debts forof classmates at his school.

While 9-year-old Ryan wanted to remain anonymous, he's become a nationwide sensation through social media.

Family dinners are a big part of daily life in the Kirkpatrick family — from cooking to serving. One evening while going through the process, Ryan somehow brought up the fact there were fellow third-graders at West Park Elementary School who owed money for their lunch tabs, and he asked his mom, Kylie Kirkpatrick, to find out how much was owed.

Through email correspondence, they found the outstanding debt was around $75.

"It was I think $74.50," Kylie Kirkpatrick told ABC7. "So I took that email and came to Ryan and said, 'What do you want to do,' and he said, 'I guess I can pay for it.' I said, 'are you sure?' And he said, 'yes.'"

Ryan dipped into his savings that usually pays for things like sports gear. He reportedly gave everything to the school. He didn't want people thinking it was a deed done for fame, but rather for those less fortunate.

"I want them to realize people actually think about them because you're not just bragging about stuff," Ryan said. "I want them to feel happy someone cares about them."

School lunches range from 30 cents to $3.25 per meal. Despite having students falling behind on their accounts, the school district policy states, "Students with a negative lunch account will still receive a hot meal."

Ryan helping to pay off classmates' lunch debts generated social media reaction from locals in Napa to a frontrunner in the 2020 presidential race.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is among the top Democratic contenders in most polls, said lunch debt for such students is unacceptable.

"School lunch debt" should not exist in the wealthiest country in the history of the world," Sanders tweeted. "When we are in the White House, we are going to provide year-round, free universal school meals."

Then there is Mari Copeny, a pre-teen from Flint, Michigan. Copeny wants to be president one day, and meanwhile has started a crowdfunding page to help the water crisis in her hometown. She supported Ryan from afar.

"Give this kid his money back. No child should be covering lunch debt for his class with his allowance," Copeny tweeted.

Another Twitter user wrote, "The school better pay this angel back for being such a sweetheart. It's depressing that 'lunch debt' exists. Make lunch free. How can you live with yourself while kids are hungry & can't afford lunch at a place where they are supposed to be cared for and protected. Depressing."

And then 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Julian Castro said students should not go hungry.

"My People First Education plan would ensure no student goes hungry at school or is burdened with lunch debt."

Kid Pays School Lunch Debt
A 9-year-old student from California paid off the lunch debt for his fellow third graders. Photo from ABC7