Restaurants help feed north Fulton students

Mike and Christy Thomas closed their restaurant Wild Slice Pizzeria in February. In March, they started The School Meal Program, in which restaurants prepare meals for students from food insecure families. Photo contributed by Mike Thomas
Mike and Christy Thomas closed their restaurant Wild Slice Pizzeria in February. In March, they started The School Meal Program, in which restaurants prepare meals for students from food insecure families. Photo contributed by Mike Thomas

A restaurant that closed its doors before the coronavirus crisis hit Georgia has found a way to help school children and struggling restaurants.

In February, Mike Thomas and his wife Christy closed Wild Slice Pizzeria in Roswell. In March, the couple came up with The School Meal Program.

Fifteen restaurants sell gift cards either online or by phone for the program. Those restaurant owners or chefs prepare meals for students who normally attend seven Roswell schools; and use their gift card proceeds for business operating costs. So far, revenue for the restaurants has totaled more than $15,000, Thomas said.

“The timing of our closing Wild Slice was remarkably lucky for us,” said Thomas. “That meant I needed to see what I could do to help other restaurants.”

Restaurants participating in The School Meal Program include Fickle Pickle, From the Earth Brewing Company and Gracious Plenty Bakery and Breakfast. Each is preparing up to 70 meals twice per week.

“It’s another way to touch the community,” said Conner Slewitzke, co-owner of Gracious Plenty. “We’ve had gift card purchases of $200-$300 per person. Every day we (prepare) something different. It’s not just breakfast and bakery food.”

From the Earth Brewing owner Tim Stevens said his restaurant patrons also responded with $200-$300 gift card purchases after seeing social media posts about the program. Those funds cover his food and labor costs for the program, he said.

Christy Thomas, a teacher of special needs kindergarten students at Esther Jackson Elementary, came up with the meal program idea. When the pandemic closed schools, the faculty was concerned with how needy children would be fed, she said.

Families of students attending Esther Jackson Elementary, Hembree Springs Elementary, Roswell North Elementary, Crabapple Elementary, River Eves Elementary and Roswell High School receive food from the restaurants.

Fulton County Schools has a food distribution program that distributes food on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 21 locations, but the restaurant program helps during times that children are still without food to eat, said Brian Noyes, chief communications officer for Fulton County schools.

“Mike’s program has been great,” added Samantha Maxey, director of Community Relations for the school system. “He has worked directly with the PTA and principals” who direct families to the restaurant program.

Volunteers use social distance guidelines when delivering the meals to students in apartment complexes and hotels, Mike Thomas said.

“We are one of many other options for meals,” he said. “We are just doing our part.”

In Other News