Wild Slice was known for attracting the attention of social media influencers through its oversize pizza slices and novelty pies.

Georgia Pizza Man Recruits Restaurateurs, Customers to Feed Hungry Kids During Crisis

Mike and Cristy Thomas' plan calls for using donated restaurant gift cards to provide healthy meals to low-income kids.

The owner of Wild Slice Pizzeria, the family-friendly restaurant featured in PMQ Pizza Magazine’s March 2020 issue, had to shut his doors recently, but he’s still finding ways to support the community in Roswell, Georgia. His current project: developing a network of local restaurants that will use purchased gift cards to provide free meals to local children impacted by school closures.

As Roswell’s schools shut down to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Mike Thomas and his wife, Cristy Thomas, a special needs kindergarten teacher, were concerned about those kids from low-income families who rely on free or discounted meals served at the schools for breakfast and lunch.

Related: Pizzerias rally to help the food-insecure while schools close down due to coronavirus

With the School Meal Program developed by the Thomases, local consumers can purchase gift cards from participating restaurants and donate the card’s value to the program. Each restaurant will use the money to prepare healthy meals, which will be distributed for free to children in need by volunteers.

The first challenge was to set up a network of restaurants willing to participate. “I made a few phone calls and sent a few emails and got tremendous feedback,” Thomas said. Restaurant owners quickly jumped on-board. Participating Roswell restaurants as of Monday, March 16, included Gracious Plenty Bakery & Breakfast, Big Oak Tavern, PURE Taqueria, From the Earth Brewing Company and Taqueria Tsunami.

Wild Slice owner Mike Thomas, his wife Cristy, and their children

“Starting today, we encourage our community to review the list of participating local restaurants and consider purchasing a gift card,” Thomas said on Monday. “Let them know this purchase is allocated to the School Meal Program, and with one click or one phone call, you can help both causes.”

Related: Some pizzerias turn to contact-free delivery, heightened cleaning protocols to soothe coronavirus fears

So far, two Roswell elementary schools have signed up. “Our hope is that the idea will spread and more restaurants and schools will adopt the program,” Thomas said. “We developed the details of the program to be easily applied to other schools.”

To get involved, schools or restaurants are invited to email Thomas at miket30075@gmail.com. Click here to follow the program’s Facebook group.

Thomas and his daughter, Sarah, appeared in PMQ’s March cover story. The article focused on Thomas’ marketing strategy that included tapping into the power of social media influencers, oversize pizza slices and novelty pies like the Girl Scout Cookie Pizza. Just two days before presstime for the March issue, Thomas had to close down his shop after bringing in a new investor who didn’t want to keep the business going at its current location. Thomas plans to roll out a Wild Slice food truck and launch a new brick-and-mortar location in the future.

Thomas also created National Pizza by the Slice Day, celebrated by pizzerias on August 22.