Local restaurant pays off student lunch debt for an entire school district

Restaurant pays off school lunch debts
Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 7:44 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Saddleback BBQ is serving up more than sweet tea, lemonade, and ribs.

Saddleback BBQ owners Travis Stoliker and Matt Gillett have made it through the pandemic ok. They’re not swimming in cash, but they want to help others. This week, Stoliker served up a check at Mason High School, paying off all of the student lunch debt in Mason Public Schools.

“It was amazing, I mean teachers kept coming out and thanking us, and I didn’t really know the impact that it was going to have on the school,” Stoliker said of the experience. “It was incredible!”

“I didn’t even know that student lunch debt existed. When I heard about it, I immediately just said we need to pay that off. And that’s when we started emailing the superintendents around town,” Stoliker said. “Because no kid should go without food.”

They heard back from Mason, where Gillett went to school. It provided the perfect opportunity for the pair to make an impact.

“Growing up in that community--- when Travis brought [the idea] up to me-- with Mason it kind of hit home,” Gillett says. “They’ve always been supportive of me, it’s where I grew up, it’s part of who I am, and it’s part of what I’m proud of.”

When the pandemic hit, some people donated their stimulus checks to Mason Public Schools to help lower the debt. The $1,800 check from the Saddleback owners finished off the job.

Saddleback’s donation covers last year’s school lunch debts. Lunches are free this year under a policy put in place by the Trump administration and the USDA.

“A lot of families have been impacted by possibly a parent losing their job, or different things from the pandemic,” says Chris Salmon, the Mason Public Schools Food Service Director. “I just think that this is one less thing they’re going to have to worry about coming back to school next year.

Saddleback’s Facebook post about the donation blew up too, people in the Lansing area are proud of one of their own for taking care of people at home.

Saddleback owners Matt and Travis paid off the entire School Lunch Debt for the Mason School District today. Matt...

Posted by Saddleback Barbecue on Wednesday, February 17, 2021

“It feels a little uncomfortable. It was just 1,800 bucks. It’s not a huge thing,” Stoliker says. “But it seemed to really mean a lot to people, and that’s what was so cool about it.”

“It’s kind of full circle at this point,” Gillett says. “We all want to make this work and stay positive.”

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