School lunch lady fired for giving girl free meal

Lunch lady fired for giving student free meal

POCATELLO -- A lunch lady in Pocatello is out of a job after giving a middle school student a free meal.

The situation has stirred an uproar on social media, and community members are not happy.

But Dalene Bowden said despite being fired, she doesn't regret what she did for the student.

"My heart hurts," she said. "I truly loved my job, and I can't say that I wouldn't do it again."

UPDATE: Lunch lady who says free meal led to firing offered job back

Bowden lost her job at Irving Middle School last week. She said she was working as a server last Tuesday when a 12-year-old girl told her she didn't have any money and was hungry.

"So I handed her the food, and said 'here, we'll take care of it in a minute,'" she said.

Bowden's supervisor saw what happened and reported her.

"He said I was on permanent leave until he called me - I should not call them, he will call me," she said. "And they never called me... then I got the letter."

The letter, signed and written by school district 25's director of human resources, informed Bowden that she was being terminated for theft. The cafeteria worker said she thought the decision was "ridiculous."

"They're hungry, what do you do?" she asked. "Send them out there so they can get it taken away and thrown away? No!"

Parents and other residents of Pocatello are siding with the fired lunch lady.

"That's absurd. That's a ridiculous reason to fire somebody," Justin Huse of Pocatello said.

Jennifer Otte agreed.

"I understand rules, but not when a child is hungry," she said.

Through social media, Bowden has rallied a number of supporters, and says parents of Irving Middle School students want her back. She has hired an attorney to look into the case.

Pocatello resident Dean Molder says there's a bigger problem.

"If a kid cannot pay for a meal, or a parent cannot pay for a meal and a person is punished for feeding that kid, somebody's got it wrong," he said. "Something is not right."

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