Lunch Lady Reportedly Fired After Giving A Hungry Student Free Lunch

by Sean Levinson

A middle school lunch lady was reportedly fired for giving a student a free meal because the student didn't have any money.

Dalene Bowden, formerly of Idaho's Irving Middle School, was recently approached by a 12-year-old girl who was hungry but couldn't provide the $1.70 difference required for a hot lunch.

Bowden said she offered to pay for the meal herself, but her supervisor reportedly said no.

So Bowden, who said she's never had a complaint about her work performance, gave the girl a free meal.

Last week, Bowden received a letter from the district saying she had been fired "due to her theft of school district property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food," according to the Idaho Statesman.

The letter did not include her final check, but she will reportedly be paid within 10 days of receiving the message.

Bowden said,

I know I screwed up, but what are you supposed to do when the kid tells you that they're hungry and they don't have any money.

She admitted to once giving a child a free cookie, but only faced verbal discipline as a result.

District spokeswoman Shelley Allen said a student is allowed to charge as much as $11 worth of free food and will then given a small meal such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if he or she still cannot produce sufficient funds.

The district, where Bowden worked for three years, additionally sends free food home to needy students each Friday.

Bowden since started a GoFundMe so she can pay for a lawyer to change the district's rules regarding free lunches.

She wrote on the campaign page she is a breast cancer survivor who once received a standing ovation from students during an assembly.

Her beloved status throughout the school, she said, is most likely why the 12-year-old asked her for help.

Raushelle Goodin-Guzman, a parent of two children in the district, started an online petition to have Bowden reinstated.

She told reporters,

I think (Bowden) did the right thing and I think we need to make sure that every child that wants lunch can have lunch. I think the district's policy needs to be changed. We do not need to humiliate or demean any child or worker in that situation. Students must be provided with an adequate meal.

Goodin-Guzman said on the petition page the 12-year-old had not exceeded the $11 limit, so it's not clear why the young girl was denied a hot lunch if that was the case.

As of this afternoon, the petition attained over 46,000 signatures.

Bowden's plight echoes that of a Colorado lunch lady who was fired for using her own money to buy food for needy children in June.

Citations: Update: Cafeteria worker fired over free lunch (Idaho Statesman), Don't Fire a Kind Lunch Lady: Children Shouldn't Go Hungry! (Petition Site)