Bonnie Kimball is the lunchroom employee who was fired after she gave away an $8 lunch to a student who couldn’t pay. Kimball says she was just doing what she had been told to when she let a high school student take his lunch tray without paying. But the next day, Kimball was fired and accused of theft. Here’s what you need to know:
1. The School District Policy Says Students Should Be Fed Lunch Even If They Can’t Pay
Cookie Hebert, the chairman of Mascoma Valley Regional School Board, said that the school district has a clear policy when it comes to lunch. Students should not be allowed to go hungry, even if they have no money to pay. “The policy is that the student be fed,” Hebert told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “There’s no refusal.”
But Hebert also said that students who can’t pay for lunch should just be given the lunch of the day. She said they shouldn’t be allowed to take “a la carte” items. In the case that led to Bonnie Kimball being fired, she allowed a student to take $8 worth of food, including a la carte items.
Bonnie Kimball said she was just doing what she’d been told to when she let the student take food without paying. She said that she quietly took the student aside and told him that his mother would have to add money to his account later. The next day, the student came in and paid his bill. But later that day, Kimball was fired for letting him take the lunch.
2. Kimball Worked at the School for Over 4 Years & Says She Knew All the Students
Bonnie Kimball was an employee of Cafe Services, the company which has the food services contract for Mascoma Valley Regional High School. Kimball spent four and a half years working in the school’s lunchroom. She said she knew all the students in the small school and was familiar with their circumstances.
Kimball also says that her supervisor had ordered her not to refuse lunch to any student who couldn’t pay. “We weren’t supposed to pull trays,” she said. On March 28, a student brought a tray containing $8 in a la carte items up to the counter, but there wasn’t enough money in his account to pay for the lunch. Kimball took him aside and told him that his mother needed to add more money to the account later. She allowed him to take the lunch. The next day, he came in and paid his bill. Later that day, Kimball’s managers fired her.
3. Kimball Set Up a GoFundMe Page to Help Cover Her Costs After Being Fired
Kimball’s situation got a lot of attention after the media wrote about her story. People shared the articles about Kimball on Facebook, and her story started to go viral. Many of Kimball’s supporters contacted her on Facebook and asked her to set up a GoFundMe page so that they could chip in and show their support for her, she says.
Kimball set up a page asking for $1000 to help her get by after being fired by Cafe Services. 10 hours after she launched the GoFundMe page, she had already reached nearly half of her goal, and the page was trending. Supporters gave small donations and wrote messages to express their outrage about Kimball being fired.
4. Kimball Had Recently Received a Glowing Review & Was Praised for Being Dependable at Work
Kimball’s most recent annual review was completed just a few weeks before she was fired for letting a student take an $8 lunch. The review said that she was a valued member of the Cafe Services team and praised her for creating a smoothie program in the lunchroom. “Bonnie is very dependable and reliable,” wrote her supervisor. “She is willing to work extra hours to cover other’s time away and is willing to help with special functions.”
A recent op-ed in New Hampshire’s Valley News praised Kimball and her fellow “kitchen ladies” for the warmth and affection they brought to their jobs. The editorial said that many of the kids in the school are poor and have experienced hunger. The piece reads, in part:
“We are grateful for the “kitchen ladies” and their presence in our lives. Who looks out for the next generation of hungry souls during times of food insecurity? Some, like Kimball, are guided by faith that asks us to be mindful of the needs of others. Some are directed by commitment to serve the greater good. Some know the real truth of hunger. Some are fed by the nourishment that they bring to others.”
5. Kimball Doesn’t Have Another Job Lined Up for the Fall
Kimball told Valley News that she is still “in mourning” for her lost job, where she says she felt like a member of the family. She says that she still doesn’t have a new job lined up for the fall. “It was my life for five years. I went and I took care of another family,” she said. “You don’t just lose a family member, be OK and move on.” Kimball said she’s planning to work in her fiance’s vending business over the summer, but she still doesn’t know what she’ll do in the fall.
Two other cafeteria staff quit in protest after Kimball was fired. A recent opinion piece in Valley News said, “These three good women will not be forgotten and will find other ways to be of service. Meanwhile, we will miss them at Mascoma and wish they were still with us.”