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9-year-old saves allowance money to pay off lunch debt for third grade class

Ryan Kirkpatrick spent more than $70 paying off his classmate's lunch debts, causing many to question why lunch debt exists.
Credit: WLTX

NAPA, Calif. — A 9-year-old boy has become the subject of debate after helping his classmates in Napa, California.

After having a conversation with his mother about children who couldn't afford school lunches, KGO-TV reported that Ryan Kirkpatrick decided to do something about it.

Kirkpatrick found out how much his fellow third-graders owed West Park Elementary School, and used his allowance money to pay off their debts.

"It was I think $74.50. 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," his mother Kylie Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick originally paid the debts anonymously, though said he wanted the students to feel happy that someone cares about them.

While Kirkpatrick's efforts were celebrated by many, several people spoke out against the general idea that students could have school lunch debt.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders retweeted a post about the story, saying "'School lunch debt' should not exist in the wealthiest country in the history of the world."

Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash said that while she supported Kirkpatrick's efforts, she did not agree with school lunch debt.

"I adore this little boy, but why does any child in this country have a 'lunch debt," Cash asked.

Activist Mari Copeny, the 11-year-old that has become the voice of the water crisis in Flint, said Kirkpatrick should receive his money back. Copeny argued that a child should never need to help his classmates with lunch.

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

According to the school district's policy, students with negative lunch accounts still receive a hot meal.

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