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Local woman uses cans to pay off students' lunch debt

Posted at 6:58 AM, Sep 25, 2018

A local mom is turning a household chore into a charity movement.

Mandi Bates used social media to take action when she heard about kids' lunch accounts going into the negatives. Since then, she has returned almost 6,000 cans--turning DeWitt's lunch account deficit into a surplus.

"School is hard enough. Kids shouldn't have to worry about whether or not they eat lunch," Bates said.

Born and raised in DeWitt, Bates wanted to do something to help the kids in the community. She saw a Facebook post from one of her friends with the idea to pay off student's lunch debt, so she took it a step further.

"So I said, 'I'm going to start collecting cans' and put it out to the community and see what they have to say. And the response I've gotten is amazing."

To date, Mandi has raised close to 600 dollars for the cause. She says that she couldn't have done it without the communities help."

"Every single day I'm either making stops to pick up people's cans or I come home and there are cans outside my garage door. I mean, this community has really rallied around this, we have far exceeded what I thought we would," Bates said.

Superintendent John Deiter says that typically the district has to use about $200 from its Random Acts of Kindness Fund to help pay off student's lunch debt. He says no kids will ever go without a lunch in the district, but he welcomes the help.

"That's the great thing about DeWitt and our community. We have so many parents that want to help and we really appreciate Mandi's efforts on that. I called her today and thanked her and welcomed the help. We will continue to work with her and her efforts...It's great for the kids," he said.

Bates says that after reaching her initial goal, she is now setting her sights higher at $1500 for the fund and loves how much traction her campaign is getting.

"It's amazing that something so little can have such a big impact," she said.

Now that the lunch debt at DeWitt is paid off, Bates' money will be going into the Random Acts of Kindness Fund which also makes lunches for kids to take home with them on the weekends.

Last week a Michigan lawmaker introduced a bill that would make lunch free for all public school students. The legislation would require schools to serve a USDA reimbursable meal to students with lunch debt. That bill is currently in the Senate Committee on Education.