May 26 (UPI) — A school district has rescinded an offer to re-hire a New Hampshire lunch lady fired after giving a student free food now that the student’s mother disputes her.
Bonnie Kimball was fired after letting a student go through the lunch line on March 28 with $8 in a la cater items without paying.
The incident in Canaan, N.H., a town of nearly 4,000 people, census data show, sparked national media backlash with Kimball telling NBC10 Boston she didn’t want to see him “go hungry.”
“I made sure the meal was paid for,” she said. “To me, letting that kid go hungry because he didn’t bring any money that day, that would have been wrong. If the bill did not get paid, damn straight I would have paid it out of my own pocket.”
The Mascoma Valley Regional School District, which serves approximately 1,200 students, said in a statement it “does not refuse to provide food to a hungry child who cannot afford to pay.”
Still, empathy for hungry children and the lunch lady after her firing ensued. The school district even demanded the food vendor offer Kimball her job back, but now that offer has been rescinded as the result of information the student’s mother brought to light.
The mother said that her 17-year-old son is not going hungry, and shared Facebook messages from Kimball to her son with the New Hampshire Union Leader, alleging a cover-up.
“I have three children, and they are well-cared for and well-fed,” the mother said. “She did not get fired for feeding a hungry child.”
The Union Leader did not name the mother or the son at the family’s request out of privacy concerns.
The Facebook messages showed that Kimball told the 17-year-old on March 28 to pay the $8 tab because the same manager who saw her giving him the food would be back the next day. She also told him to add another $20 to his account since the manager would watch her ring him out again.
“We will prolly get written up, but we can make it look good. Lol,” Kimball wrote to him.
“What kind of an adult says that to a child?” the mother questioned, adding that if her son owed money, someone from Cafe Services should have contacted her or her husband instead of their child.
Kimball denied that she was attempting to get the student to cover up getting free food.
Earlier this week, Brian Stone, president of Fresh Picks Cafe, a division of the food vendor Cafe Services, accused Kimball of being “dishonest,” in a YouTube video saying that Kimball said the student was being charged and he was not, and she later told managers he was not charged for months.
Kimball said she stopped charging him because he lost his eligibility for the federal free and reduced lunch program.
Stone said that all students are given a lunch regardless of ability to pay, but the a la carte items that the student was receiving must be paid in cash or through the student’s lunch charge account. Kimball said the student paid off the $8 tab the next day and was shocked she was accused of lying.
District Superintendent Amanda Isabelle said in a statement that the matter would be investigated by an “independent investigator for a “full and complete retelling of the facts” and be made public.
A GoFundMe page has raised thousands of dollars for Kimball since she was fired.