WATCH: Eight Year Old Raises Funds To Pay Schoolmates’ Lunch Debts

Michigan Third Grader Pays Off Lunch Debts For Hundreds Of Students

8 year old Cayden Taipalus was upset that a friend could not get a hot lunch at school. So he started a campaign that is paying for hundreds of lunches.

There have been several stories in recent weeks about students who have been denied a hot school lunch. Tough times, continuing high unemployment, and cuts to safety net programs like food stamps have forced parents to make tough choices about what bills to pay, and what bills to pass over. Fortunately, some good Samaritans have picked up the slack, giving people some of the help they need. Now, out of Michigan, comes the story of another of these American heroes. What makes this one special is he is eight years old.

Cayden Taipalus is a third grade student at Challenger Elementary School in Howell, Michigan. Howell is a town of about 9,500 and is located 55 miles northwest of Detroit. According to, Cayden came home from school about two weeks ago, and told his mother that one of his friends had had his lunch taken away and replaced with a cheese sandwich, because he owed money to the cafeteria. He asked his mother how he could help.

Cayden and his mother, Amber Melke-Peters, started collecting cans and bottles. They asked friends and neighbors to help out. They were able to raise $64, which Cayden turned into the school. This paid for over 100 lunches. A local radio station picked up the story, and donations began pouring in.

‘No Kid Goes Hungry’ pays for hundreds of lunches.

Cayden and his mother have launched a fundraising campaign, called “Pay It Forward: No Kid Goes Hungry.” They have already paid for several hundred lunches with the donations. They plan to cover the cost of at least 5,000 more this week. Cayden’s mother says that they have gone from paying for lunches at his school, to paying for students’ lunches in the entire county.

School officials say that when a student can’t afford to pay for lunch, he or she is offered an alternate lunch of a sandwich, juice, and fruit. Almost 30 percent of students in Livingston County, where Howell is located, receive free or reduced price lunch. Howell Schools public relations director Thomas Gould says, “What Cayden is doing is very generous and it shows how caring all of our students are.” He adds, “It’s also important to know that all of our kids are offered lunch no matter what.”

Thanks to the attention Cayden’s campaign has received from Today, and Good Morning America, donations have been coming in from all over. Cayden’s fundraising campaign is almost at its goal of $16,500, over three weeks before it is set to expire. Detroit’s ABC affiliate, WXYZ, last week selected Cayden as their “Detroit 2020 Person Of the Week.”

Cayden is one of his mother’s personal heroes.

Cayden’s mother says

I am so very proud of my son. He is only 8 years old and to grasp the concept around this is just amazing in my eyes. He has a heart of gold. Doing something little can turn into something big and go a long way. Paying it forward is a big deal.

Cayden is the latest of a number of people who have stepped forward to help children who can’t afford lunch at school. But he is probably the youngest by far. When asked about how he feels to know he is helping others, his one word reply was, “happy.”

How did we get to this point, where students have to raise money to pay for their friends’ lunches?

There’s a simple, one word answer to that question: Republicans. The modern GOP has never met a societal problem that it didn’t think could be solved by cuts to the social safety net. The result is that Americans now have to do things that in the past we have expected the government to do. This is exactly what the Republican party wants. Ordinary Americans dig a little deeper into their pockets to help their neighbors in tough times. The affluent, by and large, are spared the burden. Joe Sixpack skips a weekend fishing trip to help out his neighbors with a donation, while billionaire David Koch can’t even be bothered to tip for service. Meanwhile, Congressman and failed vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan stands in front of the dog and pony show known as CPAC, and tells his audience that free school lunches make children feel unloved. Welcome to GOP America.

If you would like to make a donation to Cayden’s campaign, visit this link:

Here’s a story about Cayden’s efforts, from Detroit’s WXYZ: