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Fired lunch lady who gave student free meal is offered job back

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  • Irving Middle School in Pocatello, Idaho. (Courtesy Google Maps)

POCATELLO, Idaho » A southeastern Idaho cafeteria worker said she was fired for giving a student a free meal costing $1.70, but the school district offered her the job back after a national outcry.

Dalene Bowden received a termination letter from the Pocatello School District last week after she gave a tray of food to a 12-year-old student at Irving Middle School who said she didn’t have money for the meal.

The letter cited theft as the reason for her dismissal. Bowden says a supervisor placed her on leave after witnessing what she had done.

“I truly loved my job, and I can’t say that I wouldn’t do it again,” Bowden told news station KPVI-TV in Pocatello.

The district said in a statement Wednesday night that it doesn’t fire workers for single events but offered Bowden her job back in the spirit of the holidays. It’s not clear if she will return.

The district also said it works with various programs to help children who are hungry, need medical care or who are homeless. It noted that the schools could lose federal money if accounting irregularities show up with missing meals.

“The District jeopardizes its funding for the Federal Food Service Program if its employees do not follow the proper procedures and requirements,” the statement said.

Superintendent Doug Howell has been in contact with Bowden and offered her the chance to return to work, the district’s statement said.

Meanwhile, the city of Pocatello has received so many messages of outrage that it released a statement Wednesday noting that the city and school district are separate entities and no elected officials were involved in the district’s decisions about Bowden.

“Mayor (Brian) Blad and the City feel this is an extremely unfortunate situation,” the statement said.

Comments (26)

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    • I remember in the 1960s, when I didn’t have enough school lunch money, and the worker or teacher would fill me in just so that I would not go hungry and be teased by my peers.

  • I understand why she did what she did but it would have probably been more appropriate if she had paid for the lunch for the student.
    The lunch was not her’s to give out for free.
    But firing her was also not appropriate and clearly an overreaction. Makes you wonder who this woman works for and her boss’s obvious lack of compassion.

  • I knew several employees of the post office who were also dismissed without cause. They got the help of the union, and won the right to have their job reinstated with at least a five years of backpay. Management should be more careful when it comes to a unlawful discharge.

  • The company will most likely have to create another job since the job vacancy is filled by another person, and just can’t be let go to make room for this rehired worker. Labor law is very confusing, because of the details it has.

  • I suggest Ms. Bowden pay for the student’s lunch from now on and remind the child it is her responsibility to repay her. This business of giving free lunches can go overboard and many recipients being young and immature can simply try to get away with it by pretending to forget. If not reimbursed then have the administration call the parents and embarrass both of them. Can you think of a better way to handle this?

  • I could understand requiring the employee pay for the lunch she gave away, but firing her? Over $1.70? It’s just not right. I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t return to the job, sounds like her supervisor is cold hearted person.

    • If she did it once, maybe she’s done it many other times. Don’t want to be a grinch but how would you like someone like that working for you? Especially if you worked in retail or something like that. Raccoon (above) hit the nail on the head. It’s the parents’ responsibility to ensure that their kids have money in their accounts to pay for meals. If not, bring a sandwich from home!

  • My father told me when I was five, that rich, nor the poor work. Only the middle class sweats the bacon out. So I chose to be rich. Now I don’t have to work. Next life, I want to be really poor. Either way, I ain’t working. Only little people work.

  • The United States gives away Billions of dollars to other countries and spends Trillions on banker bailouts. But God forbid we spend 1.70 for a childs lunch.This lady deserves a promotion.

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