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The Journal Gazette

Friday, May 17, 2019 1:00 am

Cafeteria worker loses job after giving student lunch

Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. – A New Hampshire school cafeteria worker's kindness may have got her fired.

Bonnie Kimball tells the Valley News she was terminated March 28 by her employer, a vendor that supplies food to the Mascoma Valley Regional High School in Canaan. It came a day after she gave a student lunch, even though he couldn't pay for it.

Kimball says that when the student's account showed no funds, she quietly told him “'tell (your) mom you need money,'” and provided a lunch. She claims a manager just asked what was on the boy's plate and walked away.

“It was my life for five years. I went and I took care of another family,” Kimball said. “You don't just lose a family member, be OK and move on.”

A spokeswoman for Cafe Services said in a statement Thursday it “would never authorize an employee to not feed a student or staff member a meal.” Nevertheless, “The company has policies and procedures in place that are shared with and acknowledged by team members,” Jaime Matheson, the director of human resources, said in a statement. “When established policies and procedures are not followed, corrective action is put in place, up to and including termination.”

The incident comes as schools across the country are struggling to deal with how to address students who can't pay for their lunch. A 2011 survey found that a majority of districts had unpaid lunch charges and that most dealt with it by offering students alternative meals.

But even that approach has been controversial. After angry Facebook posts, one Rhode Island district was forced to abandon plans to deny a hot meal to students who couldn't pay. Last month, federal lawmakers also introduced “anti-lunch shaming” legislation to protect students with unpaid lunch bills.

The Valley News reports that the alleged firing has angered Kimball's co-workers, some of whom quit in protest. Parents at the school also said they demanded Kimball be rehired.