No good deed goes unpunished. That’s the age-old saying, and it holds some truth as an employee in the Mascoma Valley Regional High School cafeteria in New Hampshire has been fired after letting a student take a lunch, despite having an outstanding balance of $8.
There are new lunchroom laws that are being implemented all over American schools these days, and they’re quite Draconian in nature. From administrators “tattooing” students who can’t afford a hot meal to good samaritans being forced to pay off debts in order for kids to access proper food, there are more and more instances like these that are making the headlines.
While there are some politicians who pride themselves on taking away food from the children who rely on mealtime in school, the majority of Americans are horrified about the emerging stories of children being turned away for inability to pay, or given a simple pb&j sandwich and an apple while their classmates munch on warm and more filling meals.
While I was a fortunate child who was always sent to school with a packed lunch, I don’t remember any of the lunch ladies at school ever getting in trouble for letting a few kids get away with lunches here and there if they were a couple dollars short. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case for Bonnie Kimball, a cafeteria worker who’d been at Mascoma Regional High for four years.
Kimball, who personally knew the student and their family, first let the child know they had an outstanding balance of $8 in the system. The kid had promised Kimball they’d be back the next day with the money from their parents. Since Bonnie was on friendly terms with the student, she had faith they’d follow through and pay off the rest of the balance – and they did.
However, Cafe Services – the company that Bonnie works for and who was contracted by the school as a meal provider for students – was not impressed, regardless of the fact that she got the money back from the student the following day.
A report by CNN, says that Bonnie was told by her employer that her actions were the same as theft, and was immediately let go from her position and given a letter of termination. Bonnie spoke CNN and told them that the company’s district manager said, “Do you understand what you did was wrong? That was theft.”
The letter of termination to Bonnie contained the following:
“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 in strict violation of our Cash Handling Procedures, the Schools Charge Policy and Federal Regulation governing free meals. Your final has been processed and disbursed to you.”
Jaime Matheson, Director of Human Resources for Cafe Services, said that the student wouldn’t have been without a meal, stating, “The student in question did receive a lunch. Students who come up to the lunch line without money receive a lunch of an entrée or sandwich plus side dishes or fresh fruit and milk. An employee of the company would not be let go because they provide this lunch to a student.”
The remainder of Jaime’s statement disclosed, “We can’t get into specifics because personnel decisions are confidential to honor privacy, however employees receive and sign their acknowledgment to company policies. When these aren’t followed, corrective action is put in place, up to and including termination. We’re all proud of our ability to provide meals to those in need.”
Two other Cafe Services employees have since quit their posts at the school in order to protest her firing, as reported by the New Hampshire Union Leader. Kimball has said that, “We miss them [the students] very much and wish we could still feed them every day.”
What do you think? Was the company justified in firing Bonnie or was it completely unnecessary? Let us know your thoughts.