‘You got to provide,’ Restaurant owner pays off lunch debt money so students can get ice cream

MIDDLETOWN, Butler County — A local restaurant is getting praise and business after what the owner did for some elementary school students.

>>RELATED: Local restaurant pays off elementary students’ lunch debt so they can enjoy ‘Ice Cream Friday’

Naiyozcsia Thomason is the owner of Mz. Jade’s Soul Food and she paid off all lunch debts at Donovan Elementary School, a Lebanon school, so every student could participate in ‘Ice Cream Friday.’

News Center 7′s Taylor Robertson spoke with the owner who saw the district’s social media post saying students who have an unpaid lunch balance could not take part in the ice cream event.

“Tomorrow is the highly anticipated first ice cream Friday! We wanted to send out a few reminders to hopefully make the day go smoothly for everyone. A student must have money on their account to purchase an ice cream. If a student has a negative balance they will not be able to purchase an ice cream even if they bring their $1 for ice cream. Students are only allowed to purchase 1 ice cream and are not permitted to buy an ice cream for a friend. We hope to have a great first ice cream Friday.”

—  Donovan Elementary School original Facebook post

People went out to the restaurant on 1131 Central Ave., to show their thanks for the owner’s selfless act.

“I donated the balance of everything which was $411.15,” Thomason said.

Thomason has owned Mz. Jade’s Soul Food in Middletown for five years, and when she saw that some elementary students may have to miss out on ice cream due to their lunch balance being unpaid, she wanted to step up and do something.

“I called the school [Friday] morning and I spoke to the administration and I assured her that I wasn’t mad or anything, I just wanted to know how I can go about my restaurant donating to pay the money,” Thomason said.

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She was compelled to donate because she was a parent who was once in a position where she couldn’t pay off those school balances.

“I was once that parent. I have six kids, I’m a single mother and I was that parent with balances and I couldn’t do nothing about it. But this time, I could do something about it,” Thomason said.

Some families whose children attend Donovan Elementary went to Mz. Jades for dinner Saturday, to show their appreciation.

News Center 7′s Taylor Robertson spoke with two Donovan Elementary students, Ryder and Annabella Gutierrez who are in the fourth and fifth grades.

Ryder said Mz. Jade’s donation meant a lot to him because last year he was the kid that had to miss out on the ice cream.

“It made me sad when I saw the other people eat ice cream and have a good time,” Gutierrez said.

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Ryder was very happy to hear that all the students were able to enjoy the sweet treat, especially his little sister.

“I’m grateful that my sister gets to experience something that I didn’t,” he said.

Thomason said she would do it again if the kids needed it.

“Whatever these kids need, they are our future you got to provide, we got to give it to them there’s just no way around it,” Thomason said.

We understand this post lacked empathy. We are sorry for the way the message was communicated. The wording lacked empathy and sensitivity for students who have low or negative meal account balances. We work very hard to provide school lunches to students by removing barriers and eliminating the stigma associated with the lunch assistance program. This post inadvertently sent the message that we would embarrass students or turn them away for an issue outside their control. The message fell short of our values as a district and we sincerely apologize.

The post was intended to communicate to Donovan parents how several district-wide rules apply to a la carte items purchased in the cafeteria. These rules are not new. Students who have a negative balance on their account are not turned away; they are provided a meal. Students are not allowed to purchase a la carte items if they have a negative balance in their meal account. Ice cream is an a la carte item. Therefore, if students have a negative balance on their meal account, they are not allowed to purchase ice cream. It is also important to note that we do not accept cash at our cafeteria registers. We also do not permit students to purchase food for their classmates without prior parent permission.

We sincerely apologize for the way this information was communicated.

—  Lebanon City School District response to its original post, Sept. 22 at 9:30 a.m.
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