The story of Dalene Bowden has gone viral this week. She received a letter of termination after serving lunch to a student who couldn’t afford to pay for it.
Bowden is a food service worker at Idaho’s Irving Middle School and has been for three years. Last week a 12-year-old girl came up to the lunch counter and told Dalene that she was hungry but didn’t have any money for a lunch. Without a second thought, the little girl received a tray of food and went about her business.
According to Idaho State Journal, Bowden was given documentation notifying her of her pending termination shortly after the incident. The letter stated that she was to lose employment due to “theft of school district property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food.”
Worried for her job, Bowden then suggested that she just pay for the $1.70 lunch that she gave away. Reportedly, her supervisor didn’t accept the offer.
So what is the cost of letting a child go hungry? What are we willing to pay? If $1.70 is too much, certainly paying with your job is enough! Bowden said:
“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? This is just breaking my heart.”
This wasn’t the first incident of Dalene giving out free food. She did receive a warning in the past and with multiple “offences” under her belt, the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District took action.
NBC News covered the school district’s press release on Wednesday night. After careful consideration of the circumstances (and the petition to rehire Bowden that had 78, 000 supporters), the district decided the right course of action was to provide “an opportunity for (Bowden) to return to employment.” Of course they said this was “in the spirit of the holidays.”
Without saying it point blank, the school board revealed that perhaps her termination was rooted in something deeper than feeding hungry children. They said in their press release that the board “has not ever taken negative employment action against any food service worker due to a singular event of this nature” but that “commenting on the specifics regarding personnel matters” wasn’t allowed. One can only hope that there is something more to Bowden being let go because firing somebody for supplying food to a child is certainly not “in the spirit of the holidays.”
In the meantime, Bowden is considering the offer.