A company has offered to rehire a New Hampshire school cafeteria worker whom it fired for giving a student lunch for free, but she isn’t interested.
Bonnie Kimball said she was terminated March 28 by Fresh Picks, a vendor that supplies food to the Mascoma Valley Regional High School in Canaan, but the company has now backtracked on its decision and offered her employment once again.
Kimball’s initial firing came a day after she gave a student lunch after realizing the boy was unable to pay for it.
Kimball says that when the student’s account showed no funds, she quietly told him ‘tell your mom you need money,’ and provided him with the food for free.
She said a manager just asked what was on the boy’s plate and walked away. The next morning the student’s bill was paid but her job was gone.
Bonnie Kimball was terminated on March 28 by her employer, a vendor that supplies food to a high school in Canaan. She was fired a day after giving a child without money a lunch
The company has since offered her job back, but Kimball says she has no intention of returning
‘I just told him, “Have your mom send in some money tomorrow,” Kimball told ABC News, adding that she ‘had no doubt he would pay for his meal the next day’
‘The man who fired me actually stood with me, watched me do the transaction. He said “okay” and he walked off,’ Kimball said.
‘The bouy brought the money in at 7:30 in the morning… and paid his account in full,’ Kimball continued.
‘His family is very well known in this town and I can guarantee that if I called his mother, she would have come right in and paid the bill. But I didn’t want to get her out of work,’ Kimball said.
‘I know they would have brought the money the next day. The bill was going to get paid.’
A spokeswoman for the Manchester-based company said Friday that an employee it did not name violated school and company policy and that a district manager had terminated the person.
‘Do you understand what you did was wrong? That was theft,’ Kimball says she was told.
However, the company said it had since offered to rehire the employee, provide her back pay and would ‘work with the school district to revise policies and procedures regarding transactions.’
‘I’m not bailing them out, I’m not gonna do it,’ Kimball told ABC.
‘The school should bring on another vendor – one that will treat the children better,’ she said.
‘They’ll never have another kitchen crew like we were. We made those lunches with love. We weren’t just lunch ladies,’ she told said. ‘We went above and beyond our job and made sure the kids got what they wanted and how they liked it.’
Cafe Services, the food provider Kimball (pictured) was employed by, said that employees ‘would not be let go because they provided lunch to a student’
The school district, in a statement, said it talked with the company about the firing of what it described as a part-time cafeteria worker and would review its food service policies to ensure conflicts between the district and its vendors don’t come up in the future.
It also said it requested the right to be released from its contract with the company next year, which would open the process to other bidders.
‘First and foremost, it is our goal to do right by our families, community, students and employees at the Mascoma Valley Regional School District,’ Superintendent Amanda Isabelle said. ‘The events of these past few weeks and the feedback I have received from parents has given me considerable pause.’
‘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.’
Kimball said she doesn’t blame the school for her initial firing but she also has no intention of returning to the same company
A letter dated April 9 from the company describes the reasoning for her firing as providing unpaid items to a student during lunch
Kimball, who has four grandchildren in the school district, said she had no intention of returning to her old job and accused the company of only offering to rehire her ‘so that it could keep its contract.’ The Mascoma Regional School Board voted Tuesday to continue using the company for another year, despite the controversy involving Kimball.
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.’
A spokesperson for Manchester-based Cafe Services said in a statement that it ‘would never authorize an employee to not feed a student or staff member a meal’
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.’
‘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 said. ‘I guess I’m mourning my job.’
The Valley News reported that the alleged firing has angered Kimball’s co-workers, some of whom quit in protest.
Parents at the school also said they were upset by Kimball’s sudden departure and demanded she be rehired. Some even started a GoFundMe campaign for her that had raised more than $6,700 by Saturday afternoon.
Kimball said she had also received an outpouring of support on her Facebook page, including from a U.S. Navy SEAL and a professional football player.
‘When I walked out of the school the day that I got fired, all that was going through my head was that I wouldn’t be able to show my face again. People would think I was a thief,’ she said, adding the support since then ‘makes me feel good.’
‘Lord, all the support and TV stations,’ she added of the interview requests. ‘I am like ‘Why are they contacting me?’ I’m still in awe.’
The incident comes as schools across the country are struggling to deal with how to address students who can’t pay for their lunch.
A 2011 survey found that a majority of districts had unpaid lunch charges and that most dealt with it by offering students alternative meals.
Kimball said she had also received an outpouring of support on her Facebook page, including from a U.S. Navy SEAL and a professional football player
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.
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.’
‘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.’
‘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.
‘When established policies and procedures are not followed corrective action is put in place up to and including termination.’