A cafeteria worker in New Hampshire who claimed she was fired after she gave lunch to a student who couldn’t afford to pay has the chance to get her job back.
But Bonnie Kimball said she won’t accept.
“It’s for all the wrong reasons,” Kimball, 57, said in a telephone interview “They ruined my life and I am not going to bail them out.”
She said she has not formally been offered her job back, and believed officials planned the offer to halt a frenzy media attention focused on the rural school district in western New Hampshire.
“They didn’t count on all this,” Kimball said. “They are only doing it for themselves.”
Amanda Isabelle, superintendent of the Mascoma Valley Regional School District, announced Friday evening that the district’s lunch provider, Café Services, agreed to rehire Kimball and pay her for lost wages.
“I believe we have all learned something through this process,” Isabelle said in a statement.
The school district unwittingly landed in the middle of a national debate over so-called “lunch shaming,” efforts by school districts to cover the cost of unpaid lunch bills by limiting student’s choices.
Mascoma Valley serves about 1,200 students in four regional schools in five communities. Approximately 360 receive free lunch, according to the district.
In her statement, Isabelle said it is school officials’ “first and foremost” goal to do right by the school district’s community.
“The events of these past few weeks and the feedback I have received from parents has given me considerable pause,” Isabelle said. “As a school district, we understand the importance of rules and procedures, but upon reflection, I have become sufficiently convinced that it is wrong of us to assume that all the responsibility falls to the vendor, and I do not believe our communities would accept that explanation of this situation.”
The controversy started on March 28, Kimball said, when a student went through her lunch line, and she rang him up.
But the student didn’t have enough money to pay for his lunch, so she let him take the food, Kimball said.
She whispered to him to tell his mother that he needed more money. The next day, the boy had money, but she was fired for “theft” that afternoon, Kimball said.
Café Services, the Manchester-based company that provides food services to the school district, strongly disputed Kimball’s claim.
“The information as reported is untrue,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “As an organization we are acutely aware of the prevalence of food insecurity and take pride in being able to provide meals for those in need.”
In a statement posted on its Facebook page Friday, the company did not identify Kimball. But said “an employee violated school and company policy in dealing with our food service and our district manager made a decision he felt was right at the time.”
Company officials wrote they planned to offer to rehire the employee.
“As a family-run company, we have a strong sense of community,” the statement continued. “We care deeply about the people we serve, and will continue to work with integrity to maintain your trust and confidence.”
Kimball said she received an e-mail from Café Services officials, who said they wanted to meet with her and the school district’s superintendent. She replied that she’d be willing to meet to listen to what they have to say, she said.
“I just want to see these people face to face and tell them I am not coming back,” she said.