It’s been a busy couple months for Ryan Kyote of Napa.

Back in May, Ryan, then a third-grader at West Park elementary school, became national news after word spread about a good deed he did.

Earlier this year, Ryan saw a news story about a student in another county who was turned away from buying hot lunch because his or her school food service account balance was too low.

This didn’t sit right with Ryan.

“I felt bad for all the kids that didn’t have any lunch,” Ryan said during an interview in early June. “It’s not fair,” he said.

Inspired, Ryan decided to use his savings — $74.80 – to pay off some of his own school’s student lunch debt with the Napa Valley Unified School District.

A lot has happened to Ryan since then.

It started with a Register story about Ryan. After that, a number of different groups and people also recognized his efforts in a variety of ways.

Ryan met U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, appeared on “Access Hollywood” and on Bay Area TV shows, met singer Michael Franti, appeared in People magazine, was honored at professional sports games and other events, received gifts and ‘thank you’ letters, met Gov. Newsom and will be featured in an upcoming children’s book titled “Unselfish Kids.”

It’s all been “awesome,” said Ryan. He’s “proud” to help other kids, said the now fourth-grade student.

Most recently, because of Ryan’s actions, Newsom signed into law a bill that guarantees all students a state-funded meal of their choice, even if their parent or guardian has unpaid meal fees.

Under the new law, a school can no longer give a student a cheaper alternative meal.

At some schools across the country, students whose parents are not able to pay for their lunch are given a cheaper, “alternative” lunch that causes them to stick out from their peers, said a news release from the governor. Newsom met with Ryan earlier this year and committed to working on the issue.

Napa Valley Unified School District students won’t see a change in policy. Those with a negative food service balance still receive a hot lunch, said a representative from the district this past June.

In a statement Saturday, Newsom said: “I want to thank Ryan for his empathy and his courage in bringing awareness to this important issue.”

“He showed how at many schools across the country, students whose parents are not able to pay for their lunch are given a cheaper, ‘alternative’ lunch that causes them to stick out from their peers,” said Newsom.

In a phone interview this week, Ryan’s mom, Kylie Kirkpatrick, said she’s proud of her son and how he’s helped others.

She shared one ironic note: Ryan is no longer a public school student — he now attends Napa Christian school, she said. “This law doesn’t even affect him,” said Kirkpatrick. “He wanted to pass it for his friends.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

You can reach Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com


Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.