Dalene Bowden: Lunch Lady Fired For Giving Hungry Student A Free Lunch

An Idaho lunch lady was fired from her school cafeteria job for giving a free lunch to a child who didn’t have any money. Dalene Bowden worked for the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District at Irving Middle School before she was terminated for giving a lunch tray to a hungry 12-year-old girl.

Dalene Bowden said that she knew giving away a free lunch was against the Irving Middle School rules. She said that she was warned once before against being generous with Pocatello/Chubbuck School District food after she gave a student a free cookie.

“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,” the former lunch lady said during an interview with the Idaho Statesman. “I got fired for having a heart.”

Dalene Bowden said that the hungry 12-year-old girl probably came to her when she didn’t have money for food due to her big-hearted reputation at Irving Middle School. The former lunch lady said that during a school assembly last year, the students gave her a standing ovation when a photo of her was shown on the screen in the auditorium.

Bowden has worked for the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District for three years. After getting into trouble with school administrators for giving the hungry student a lunch tray, Dalene said that she offered to pay for the $1.70 cost of the tray and was turned down.

According to the former cafeteria worker, her letter of termination said that she was fired for “theft- stealing school district or another’s property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving, or serving food.”

Although she lost a good job with reasonable pay, great hours and quality benefits, Dalene Bowden said that she would do the same thing all over again and will not apologize for giving food to a hungry child. Support for the lunch lady fired right before Christmas is overflowing both online and in the Pocatello community, the Daily Mail reports.

Irving Middle School parent Raushelle Guzman said that the school district needs more staffers like the lunch lady, not less. Guzman created an online petition urging the district to hire Dalene Bowden back. To date, the petition has garnered nearly 40,000 signatures, the Daily Mail reports.

“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,” Guzman said when speaking to the local media.

All public schools in the United States are eligible to participate in the taxpayer-funded federal free and reduced-cost student lunch program. The program provides free or low-cost breakfast and lunch to qualifying students. Whether or not the 12-year-old girl was a reduced lunch program participant who forgot her lunch fee, a student who pays full price who forgot her lunch money, or why she was unable to afford the cost of a student tray remains unknown.

Interim Pocatello/Chubbuck School District Superintendent Douglas Howell said Irving Middle School is a participating free and reduced lunch program school, and staffers work to ensure that all eligible students are enrolled.

A GoFundMe page created to aid Bowden has gone viral online. The funds from the online campaign will reportedly be used to secure legal representation for the former school employee and to help her in the quest to get her job back.

A post from Bowden on the GoFundMe page reads:

“I love my job. I really do. This just breaks my heart, and 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. This is just breaking my heart.”

What do you think about Dalene Bowden being fired for giving a free lunch to a hungry student?

[Image via Shutterstock.com]