School Lunch Lady Fired For Giving Free Food To Hungry Child (IMAGE)

A middle school in Idaho fired a cafeteria worker for the worst reason ever — because she fed a hungry child. Darlene Bowden was placed on unpaid leave on December 15 after she gave a free lunch to a 12-year-old student who said she did not have money for food.

While feeding hungry children may seem like the right thing to do to most people, schools across the nation are taking a hardline stance against hungry children — not the hunger itself, but the children themselves, opting to waste food rather than feed a student who doesn’t have money, or who owes money. Rather than deal with the mess of attempting to get the student food through official channels — something that often leads to cheese sandwiches, if a student is fed at all — Bowden did the right thing and fed the little girl. This act of kindness led to her termination from  Irving Middle School in Pocatello.

“This just breaks my heart,” Bowden told the Idaho Statesman. “I was in the wrong, but what do you do when the kid tells you that they’re hungry, and they don’t have any money? I handed her the tray.”

In this case, the child would have been fortunate. According to Interim Superintendent Douglas Howell, the student was within the $11 allowance the school allows children to charge before the parents are notified — but Bowden did not know that at the time. If a child is over the $11 limit, he or she is provided with a minimal, inadequate “meal” of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and milk. Bowden says that they are instructed to throw the real food away if a child over the limit attempts to buy it — a problem that somehow still persists nationwide in 2015.

She offered to pay the $1.70 for the lunch, but her supervisor placed her on leave anyway. “I broke the rules, but I offered to pay for the meal and I don’t think I deserved to lose my job over it,” Bowden said.

During her suspension, she received a letter explaining that she was terminated for “theft” — the act of giving a child food:

“The reason for your termination is due to your theft — stealing school district or another’s property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food. Consequently, because of the nature of your actions, the District will not be maintaining your employment in any capacity.”

The letter notes that keeping a woman around who cares so much about the children is not “in the best interest of School District No. 25.”

“And they couldn’t even bother to put my check in with the letter,” she remarked. The letter stated that her final compensation would be mailed within 10 days.

Raushelle Guzman, parent of two children in the district, started a petition demanding that Bowden be reinstated. While she doesn’t know Bowden, she admires the kind lunch lady’s actions:

“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.”

The petition has gathered over 30,000 signatures.

“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,” Bowden says. “I would do it again in the same situation.”

Bowden herself has started a GoFundMe in an effort to retain a lawyer and fight to change the law so that every child eats, every day, no matter what.

Featured image via GoFundMe