Darlene Bowden did what any of us would have done had we been in a similar situation: She fed a hungry child who didn’t have enough money to pay for a school lunch. And now she’s unemployed due to her act of kindness and compassion.
Bowden was employed as a cafeteria worker at Pocatello Middle School in Idaho. One day a child came through the lunch line and said she didn’t have the $1.70 for the daily meal. So Bowden gave the child a meal for free. When this was discovered, she was placed on unpaid leave even though she offered to reimburse the school for the cost of the meal. She commented:
“This just breaks my heart. 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? I handed her the tray.”
When she was terminated, Bowden received a letter stating that she was being let go for “theft.” Apparently feeding a hungry child is considered theft in Idaho. Here’s the letter Bowden was issued upon her dismissal:
Yes, there it is in black and white:
“The reason for your termination is due to your theft — stealing school district or another’s property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food. Consequently, because of the nature of your actions, the District will not be maintaining your employment in any capacity.”
But now parents who have children in the school district are coming to the aid of Bowden. Raushelle Guzman has started a petition demanding that Bowden be reinstated. She doesn’t know Bowden, but says she admires her kindness and generosity:
“I think (Bowden) did the right thing and I think we need to make sure that every child that wants lunch can have lunch. I think the district’s policy needs to be changed. We do not need to humiliate or demean any child or worker in that situation. Students must be provided with an adequate meal.”
That petition currently has over 30,000 signatures on it.
“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. I would do it again in the same situation.”