School cafeteria manager Della Curry was fired for giving a hungry first grader a free lunch. The kitchen manager was employed at the Dakota Valley Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado. Curry, a married mother of two, was fired last week when her supervisors learned that she was allowing children to eat lunch if they did not have any money to pay.
Della Curry, 35, was tasked with supervising food preparation at Dakota Valley Elementary School until last Friday. Concerned that the Colorado school policy was too rigid and children would go hungry after her termination, she took to Facebook to share her story. Social media postings about the school cafeteria manager’s firing quickly went viral.
” ‘I had a first grader in front of me, crying, because she doesn’t have enough money for lunch,’ Della Curry said during an interview with CBS Denver. ‘Yes, I gave her lunch.’ “
The Dakota Valley Elementary School is part of the Cherry Creek School District. The Colorado school districts offers students free and reduced-price meal plans through the federal school lunch program. Students qualify for the free lunch program if they’re part of a family of four with an annual income that does not exceed $31,000. The family ratio to income earnings chart details the criteria for a wide variety of living and income situations. Families of four that earn $45,000 qualify for the reduced lunch program.
Della Curry says that Dakota Valley Elementary School students who do not meet the free lunch program guidelines are not allowed to be given anything more than a slice of cheese on a bun and a carton of milk, if they forget their lunch money. Curry said in the past she has paid for lunches of hungry children if they don’t have any money, out of her own pocket.
“Kids whose parents make too much money to qualify, but a lot of times they don’t have enough money to eat,” the former school cafeteria manager said. Curry added that even though violating the school lunch policy cost her a job, she does not regret feeding the hungry child.
“While I know that what I did was legally wrong, I do not feel bad about it and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I will never understand how the ‘best’ country in the world considers a cheese sandwich to be adequate nutrition for a child. I will never understand how one of the richest countries in the world cannot provide lunch for its children.”
Della Curry also noted that she was not fired directly by the Colorado school district but by a separate entity, the Food and Nutrition Services agency.
The Cherry Creek School District issued a statement about the firing of the school kitchen manager after the story went viral. The release reminded the public that the school is not legally obligated to give children without lunch money a meal.
“According to our practice, we provide hot meals to students the first three times they forget their lunch money and charge their parents’ accounts. The fourth time, we provide a cheese sandwich and milk. The district has worked to keep lunch prices low and still meet the federal nutrition requirements. The costs of our lunch program are not covered by the prices we charge. At the end of the year, any unpaid accounts revert back to the general fund which also covers instruction, security, building maintenance, and overall operations.”
What do you think about the school cafeteria manager getting fired for giving a child a free lunch? Does the expense accrued by the district, and the taxpayers, at the end of the school year when thousands of lunches could go unpaid, justify the lunch tray refusal?
[Images via: Shutterstock and Facebook]