A lunch lady in New Hampshire has reportedly been forced to leave her position after letting a child have a school lunch without paying for it. The incident, which took place in Mascoma Valley Regional High School, has been a source of controversy in the local community and has prompted a public outcry from other members of staff.
According to reports in the media, including CNN, the confusion occurred after a student placed lunch items totalling around $8 on his tray, without having the funds to pay for them. Rather than force the unidentified high schooler to return the items and go hungry, lunch lady Bonnie Kimball told him to pay for the food the next day, which she alleges he did. As she subsequently claimed to reporters, she was confident that the child would pay as she had known his family since he was a young child.
However, despite the school receiving full payment less than 24 hours after the initial incident, Kimball claims that she was fired approximately one week later, receiving the news from the district manager of Café Services, the food services company that employed her. As part of her deposition, Kimball alleges that she was told, “Do you understand what you did was wrong? That was theft.”
In addition to the verbal castigation, Kimball revealed that she had received a letter further detailing her supposed misconduct. This letter has since been verified by CNN, who report that Kimball was told, “On March 28, a District Manager was on-site and witnessed a student coming through the line with multiple food items that you did not charge him for. This in strict violation of our Cash Handling Procedures, the Schools Charge Policy and Federal Regulation governing free meals. Your final has been processed and disbursed to you.”
When news of Kimball’s dismissal became public, the reaction was unsurprisingly outraged. CNN report that two of her colleagues quit the school in protest, while a GoFundMe page has been set up to provide financial support. Kimball had been employed at the school for almost four and a half years, which made news of her sudden discharge all the more surprising.
In response to the backlash, Jaime Matheson, human resources director for Café Services, defended the company’s conduct, stating, “The student in question did receive a lunch. Students who come up to the lunch line without money receive a lunch of an entrée or sandwich plus side dishes or fresh fruit and milk. An employee of the company would not be let go because they provide this lunch to a student.” Her statement continued, “We can’t get into specifics because personnel decisions are confidential to honor privacy, however employees receive and sign their acknowledgment to company policies. When these aren’t followed, corrective action is put in place, up to and including termination. We’re all proud of our ability to provide meals to those in need.” There has been no official word from the school itself.