After Giving A Lunch To A Boy Who Couldn’t Pay, This School Lunch Lady Was Fired
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, even if it’s a school lunch. School lunch is important, because by the middle of the day, you really need a crispy apple and cold carton of milk to pep you up. There’s no way you can focus during your afternoon classes without having a nutritious, and hopefully delicious meal. Students need to learn, and they need to function. Otherwise, there’s no point in going at school, and they might as well just spend eight hours a day staring at the wall.
Most schools have cafeterias that have school lunches, but those school lunches aren’t necessarily available to every student, even though they theoretically should be. Some students can’t afford to purchase food from the cafeteria, which is really sad. There are some people who are working to make sure every student can eat a good lunch, but sometimes there are consequences for doing so.
Lunch Lady Land
A student at Mascoma Valley Regional High School in New Hampshire didn’t have enough money to pay for his $8 school lunch.
So lunch lady Bonnie Kimball gave him the school lunch, and told him to pay it back the next day.
The student gave Bonnie the money for his lunch just like he said he would, and it didn’t seem like it was a big deal. However, it ended up turning into huge deal for the lunch lady.
Out Of A Job
Exactly one week later, Bonnie was fired by Café Services, the food services company she worked for.
And what was the reason for her dismissal? She gave away a lunch that the student couldn’t pay for that day.
Café Services said that the lunch lady had violating their procedures in addition to federal and school policies. Even though the child payed for the food the next day, it didn’t matter. Bonnie was still out of a job over the matter of $8.
Termination And Theft
“‘Do you understand what you did was wrong? That was theft,'” Bonnie says she was told by Café Services.
Bonnie knew that the student would be able to pay for their lunch the next day. She had known the boy’s parents since they were children.
We’re pretty sure that theft means you’re taking something without paying for it, not taking something and then paying for it, albeit one day late. It seems a little extreme to call it theft.
Good For It
Bonnie explained that she didn’t do anything wrong when she told the kid he could pay later.
“His family is very well known in this town and I can guarantee that if I called his mother, she would have come right in and paid the bill,” said Bonnie.
“But I didn’t want to get her out of work. I know they would have brought the money the next day. The bill was going to get paid.”
Bonnie said she had experiences with the student coming in unable to pay for food.
“He did not have money on his account if and when he came in. Sometimes he paid cash, and sometimes (he put it) on his girlfriend’s account,” said Bonnie regarding the student and his lunch habits
“Lots of times he would charge it to a friend’s (account,) which now they say is not legal, because he is a jock and everyone likes him.”
An Angry Letter
Bonnie received a letter delineating exactly what she did wrong, and what exactly led to her dismissal.
“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,” read the letter.
“This is 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.” Wow!
No Child Left Behind
But Café Services insists that the fact that Bonnie gave food to the child without making him pay wasn’t the real issue.
Jamie Matheson, the Human Resources director for Café Services, says that students who don’t have the money pay for food are still given lunches.
Café Services provides a special lunch for students who are unable to pay for food. “An employee of the company would not be let go because they provide this lunch to a student,” said Matheson.
Every child deserves to eat, even if they don’t have the money to be able to afford food.
“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,” said Matheson.
Cafe Services insists that the fact that Bonnie gave food to a child wasn’t an issue, but rather, Bonnie didn’t follow the policies of Cafe Services.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Still, Cafe Services won’t discuss the specifics of why Bonnie was fired after this incident.
“We can’t get into specifics because personnel decisions are confidential to honor privacy, however, employees receive and sign their acknowledgment to company policies,” said Matheson.
“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.” Yikes! You don’t want to mess with Cafe Services.
Honesty Is The Best Policy
According to Brian Stone, the CEO of Cafe Service, this wasn’t a one time event.
The company claims that Bonnie had been giving that same student free food for the past four months, which is why she was dismissed.
“This employee was dishonest and was let go for not following procedures,” said Stone regarding Bonnie and the reasons why she was let go. But Bonnie claims she was following the rules, and did write down the transaction.
Truth And Lies
Bonnie let the student in question take two sport drinks, two cookies and two orders of French fries along with the main meal.
Bonnie said that she charged the student’s account for the food, but when Cafe Services looked, they said they found that the account was not charged.
“What the employee said was not true,” said Stone. Furthermore, cafe services then found that the student had not paid for food within the past three months on top of it.
A Free Lunch
Part of the issue, according to Cafe Services, is because of the items the student took.
The student took a la carte items, which are not included in the lunch program, and must be payed for with cash or charged to a student’s account.
There are items that the student can get for free if they cannot pay. “There are, however, items such as ice cream bars, sports drinks and chips that are not provided for free,” said the school district.
Call And Response
Many people thought it was unfair that Bonnie got fired for letting the kid pay her back for lunch.
Two other lunchroom employees quit in protest because Bonnie was fired by Café Services. You gotta take a stand!
Bonnie had put in 4½ years at the Mascoma Valley Regional High School before she was let go from her job. Bonnie was sad to see her job go, saying, “We miss [the students] very much and wish we could still feed them every day.”
But Bonnie might not be out of a job for much longer thanks to the help of a famous chef.
Award-winning chef José Andrés offered to give Bonnie a job at his nonprofit World Central Kitchen. The chef posted about it on Twitter.
“The hero is Bonnie Kimball! If she needs a new job we have openings @thinkfoodgroup if you know her, let her know!” said Andrés on his social media account. Bonnie has not said if she’s applied for a position there.
Additionally, Bonnie’s old job said that they would hire her back after her firing went viral.
The company said that they would “work with the school district to revise policies and procedures regarding transactions” in order to fix the problem.
They said the would also give Bonnie back pay. Bonnie said that she didn’t hear anything about it from the company, and even if they did give her the old job back, she wouldn’t take it back anyways.
A Set Of Standards
Mascoma Superintendent Amanda Isabelle threatened to pull the contract Cafe Services has with the school district if they did not take Bonnie back.
“First and foremost, it is our goal to do right by our families, community, students and employees at the Mascoma Valley Regional School District,” said Isabelle.
“The events of these past few weeks and the feedback I have received from parents has given me considerable pause.” There certainly is a lot of drama over this lunch!
It looks like the incident caused the school district to do a lot of soul searching when it comes to its lunches.
“As a school district, we understand the importance of rules and procedures,” said Isabelle.
“But upon reflection, I have become sufficiently convinced that it is wrong of us to assume that all the responsibility falls to the vendor, and I do not believe our communities would accept that explanation of this situation. We must be accountable for the people who work in our schools.”
Go Fund Yourself
A Go Fund Me to support Bonnie has popped up shortly after she got fired.
“When I walked out of the school the day that I got fired, all that was going through my head was that I wouldn’t be able to show my face again. People would think I was a thief,” said Bonnie.
Bonnie said that the support she has received since the incident is something that “makes me feel good.” Who knew this would be such a big deal?
Wow! Who knew that one lunch lady getting fired would turn out to be such a big deal?
There are so many sides to this story, and everyone thinks that they’re right for doing what they did.
The moral of the story is, don’t ever leave your lunch money at home, and if you do, don’t ask the lunch lady to cover you. Because it is going to blow up in everyone’s faces in an epic way.