Cedar Rapids tattoo parlor raising money for local students' school lunches

Portion of cost of food-related tattoos going to Cedar Rapids Community School District

Mollie Schakel of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, gets a tattoo of a carton of chocolate milk with a straw by tattoo artist Elizabeth Peters at Mystic Tat2, 419 Third Avenue SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Schakel, a school bus attendant, got the tattoo as a donation to the lunch program for the Cedar Rapids Community School District. The tattoo shop has donated about $3,000 to the school district with about 112 people each getting a food-themed, poker chip-sized tattoo. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Mollie Schakel of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, gets a tattoo of a carton of chocolate milk with a straw by tattoo artist Elizabeth Peters at Mystic Tat2, 419 Third Avenue SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Schakel, a school bus attendant, got the tattoo as a donation to the lunch program for the Cedar Rapids Community School District. The tattoo shop has donated about $3,000 to the school district with about 112 people each getting a food-themed, poker chip-sized tattoo. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A “No Children” sign is on the front door of the tattoo shop, but inside, artists are on their way to raising thousands of dollars for young Cedar Rapids Community School District students.

Through November, Mystic Tat2 is donating $27 — the cost of about 10 school lunches — to the school district for each small, food-related tattoo done at the shop.

Since the start of September, the drive has raised nearly $3,000, the price tag of about 1,000 school lunches.

Donations will be used to cover school lunches for children whose accounts are in the red, said Jennifer Hook, the district’s child nutrition resource management and compliance specialist.

“Rather than paying off old balances from years past, we’re trying to make sure children are eating everyday,” Hook said. “The more students we can help get lunch everyday, that’s great.”

The current donation will benefit more than 1,000 students, Hook said. The number of students unable to purchase lunch on a daily basis varies widely, she said, but about half of the district’s 16,000 students qualify for free or reduced meals.

Lynda Smith, 33, a tattoo artist who runs Mystic Tat2 with her brother David, said dozens of locals already have come in for tattoos of foods like pineapples, chicken legs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pizza slices.

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“She did a really cute sailor hot dog,” Lynda Smith said of one of artist Elizabeth Peters’ tattoos. “Mine was more inappropriate.”

Although many people wouldn’t associate a tattoo parlor with community service, Lynda Smith said the shop is “a good place to raise awareness for things and to involve the community where they wouldn’t maybe find an obvious connection.”

Owner David Smith said Mystic Tat2 participates often in drives and other benefits. Last year, employees held a monthlong tattoo drive that benefited suicide prevention, and next year they plan to host a drive that will send donations to a local animal shelter.

The current drive for the school district is “the best thing that we’ve done so far for the community,” David Smith said. “I’ve done a lot of fundraisers over the years and this is by far my favorite. It’s so much fun.”

Both Lynda and David Smith graduated from Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School. Mystic Tat2, 419 3rd Ave SW, opened in 2009.

“For a little shop, we try to do as much as we can for everybody immediately around us,” David Smith said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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