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High school cafeteria worker fired giving $8 lunch to hungry student with no money

Bonnie Kimball
Pictured fired New Hampshire school cafeteria worker, Bonnie Kimball.
Bonnie Kimball
Pictured fired New Hampshire school cafeteria worker, Bonnie Kimball.

Bonnie Kimball a New Hampshire High school cafeteria worker claims being fired after giving $8 lunch to hungry student with no money (who paid the next day). 

A New Hampshire school cafeteria worker has claimed being fired after giving a hungry student lunch after the child had no money to ‘immediately’ pay for the meal.

Bonnie Kimball says she was terminated on March 28 by her employer, Cafe Services– a vendor that supplies food to the Mascoma Valley Regional High School in Canaan, after five years on the job. 

‘I’m just dealing with so much right now: the public, paperwork. One minute I’m mad and the next minute, I just want to forget it all happened,’ Kimball relaid via the Valley News. ‘I guess I’m mourning my job.’

Responding to the former employee’s sacking, Cafe Services said they couldn’t discuss Kimball’s firing- while insisting they ‘would not be let go because they provided this lunch to a student.’

However, a letter from the company provided by Kimball seems to suggest she was fired for giving the student items without collecting payment when the child was given the a la carte meal. 

Bonnie Kimball
Pictured fired New Hampshire school cafeteria worker, Bonnie Kimball. Image via social media.

Bonnie Kimball fired: ‘Tell your mommy you need money…’

Fresh Picks Cafe, a subsidiary of Cafe Services, is responsible for providing the food and the workers that make lunch hours run smoothly at Mascoma Valley Regional High School.

As a Cafe Services employee, Kimball was in charge of running the cash register at the school, where she would also make ice cream sundaes and smoothies for the student body of 326 children every day.

‘We didn’t even call it work,’ Kimball said. ‘We got up in the morning, we took care of our families and we went to take care of the kids.’ 

She said on March 28, a district manager was on site due to the nearing end of Cafe Services contract with the school, and Kimball said she was told, ‘Don’t cause any scenes with the contract.’

Under this directive, Kimball said when a student’s account showed no funds, she quietly told him, ‘Tell (your) mom you need money,’  and provided the student with a lunch. 

She claims the district manager asked what was on the boy’s plate and walked away, but the next day she was called into the office and fired.

Of note the school contract was said to be determined in providing $560,000 in annual revenue to Cafe Services.

Bonnie Kimball
Pictured, New Hampshire woman, Bonnie Kimball.

Bonnie Kimball New Hampshire High school cafeteria worker fired for not following policy: but define policy of feeding hungry children vs making money? 

Speaking to CNN, Kimball said she told the student to make sure to pay the next day. She wasn’t worried as she had known the boy’s parents since they were children, and had no doubt that the $8 lunch tab would soon be taken care of. And the next morning, Kimball said that’s exactly what happened.

Nevertheless the worker still found herself out of a job soon after.

‘Do you understand what you did was wrong? That was theft,’ Kimball says she was told by her employer.

It has since been revealed, school officials saying Kimball should have provided the ‘meal of the day’ instead of a la carte items.                                                                           

A spokesperson for Manchester-based Cafe Services said in a statement on Thursday that it ‘would never authorize an employee to not feed a student or staff member a meal.’ 

‘Although we are not at liberty to discuss the confidential details regarding an employee’s employment or termination from employment, we can share that 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 a student does not have the funds available to pay for a lunch there are set procedures to ensure the student is provided a meal.’

Adding, ‘When established policies and procedures are not followed corrective action is put in place up to and including termination.’

Kimball provided a letter dated April 9 to the Valley News, which appeared to confirm her reasoning behind being let go.

The letter read: ‘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. This is a strict violation of our Cash Handling Procedures, the Schools Charge Policy and Federal Regulation governing free meals.’ 

Bonnie Kimball
Bonnie Kimball while at work at Mascoma Valley Regional High School. Image via Facebook.

Bonnie Kimball New Hampshire High school cafeteria worker fired despite glowing annual review weeks before:

Of note, Kimball’s sacking follows her most recent annual review completed just a few weeks before. The review said that she was a valued member of the Cafe Services team and praised her for creating a smoothie program in the lunchroom. ‘Bonnie is very dependable and reliable,’ wrote her supervisor. ‘She is willing to work extra hours to cover other’s time away and is willing to help with special functions.’

Kimball’s firing has angered her co-workers, some of whom quit in protest, according to the Valley News.

Parents at the school also said they were upset by Kimball’s sudden departure and demanded she be rehired.

‘These guys really took care of our kids. They put our kids first and their focus was really our kids,’ Christina Moodie, whose son attends the high school, said. ‘I know Bonnie went above and beyond for the kids.’

The Mascoma Regional School Board voted on Tuesday to continue using the company for another year, despite the controversy involving Kimball.

‘The people working in the school lunch program are employees of Café Services, and Café Services is responsible for employment decisions regarding those employees,’ the district said in a statement.

‘School district policy is to make healthy nutritious school meals available to every child whether or not the child has sufficient funds to cover the cost of the meal.’

Kimball said she doesn’t blame the school district for her firing. 

The incident comes as schools across the country are struggling to deal with how to address students who can’t pay for their lunches. 

A 2011 survey found that a majority of districts had unpaid lunch charges and that most dealt with it by offering students alternatives meals.

But even that approach has been controversial. After a flurry of 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 USDA also discourages practices that stigmatize students, but allows districts to set their own policies.