An Idaho school cafeteria worker is out of a job, because she allegedly stole from the school. The nature of the theft? She gave a hot lunch to a middle school student who didn’t have the money to pay for it.
Dalene Bowden, a former cafeteria worker at Irving Middle School in Pocatello, Idaho, gave a 12-year-old girl a hot lunch, even though the girl said she couldn’t pay for it. For that act of Christian kindness, Bowden was placed on “termination leave,” pending a hearing by the school board, according to The Idaho Statesman.
Bowden says that she even offered to pay the $1.70 that the meal cost, but her supervisor rejected the offer. She says that she has worked for the school for three years without any problems, although she admits she was once given a verbal warning for giving a student a free cookie.
Raushelle Goodin-Guzman, whose children attend Irving Middle School, has created a petition in support of Bowden. That petition reads in part:
In Idaho’s Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25, a kitchen worker has been put on unpaid leave and might lose her job because she gave a child a ‘free’ lunch (equivalent to $1.70). Even after volunteering to pay for the hungry student’s lunch with her own money, kitchen worker Dalene Bowden could be fired!
The petition, which currently has over 38,000 signatures, goes on to point out that students in the district are allowed to charge up to $11 for their lunches, and it was later learned that the girl was still within her $11 limit. Yet Bowden is still being terminated for “theft.”
Bowden’s supporters have also created a Facebook page, titled “Give Dalene Bowden her job back.” So far, the page has been “liked” by over 3,400 people.
I worked in public schools for almost 30 years, and I can tell you that the school cafeteria is the most mercenary, tight-fisted operation in many school districts. School budgets are tight, and schools expect the cafeteria to be self-supporting. The result is harsh policies like this one that deny hungry children a hot meal, because their parents forgot to send in a check, or didn’t go online to replenish a lunch account. The kids are punished because their parents are too busy, or in some cases simply don’t have the money to pay for lunch. And yes, there are things such as free and reduced price lunch. But those programs do not reach all of the students who need them.
Bowden’s story of how hot food is taken away from students who can’t pay and simply thrown in the trash is repeated across this nation many times a day. It’s easy to say that Idaho is a “red” state, and that’s why they follow this policy, but the fact is that this is going on in states both red and blue. It starts because politicians don’t want to properly fund school cafeterias — these kids don’t vote, after all, and they don’t contribute to political campaigns — and ends with hungry children, who are forced to watch a good lunch thrown away and replaced with a peanut butter sandwich, all thanks to a situation over which they have no control.
The National School Lunch Program, which is responsible for providing free and reduced price lunches, costs just shy of $13 billion a year. That sounds like a lot of money, until you realize that the Iraq War cost the country over $2 trillion.
Here’s a report from KTVB:
Featured image via video screen capture