Free lunch could cost cafeteria worker her job

A cafeteria worker at Pocatello’s Irving Middle School could be fired after serving a free meal to a student who didn’t have money for lunch.

“This just breaks my heart, and I was in the wrong, but what do you do when the kid tells you that they’re hungry, and they don’t have any money?” Dalene Bowden told the Idaho State Journal. “I handed her the tray.”

Bowden was placed on administrative leave Tuesday, pending a school board hearing, according to the Journal.

Interim Superintendent Douglas Howell did not discuss specifics of the case in an interview with the Journal, but said students are allowed to carry a cafeteria charge of up to $11. The lunch in question cost $1.70.

“We didn’t take a meal away from a child,” Howell told the Journal.

As Bowden’s story spread over the weekend, two state legislators took to Facebook to take her side.

“I would not be able to turn away a hungry child or let them be humiliated for something completely out of their control,” said Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, who said she is Bowden’s cousin.

“This is so wrong,” said Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls.