The holiday season invites people of all ages to celebrate the spirit of giving and mercy for those down on thier luck. Many people follow the example of Christ and participate in activities such as sheltering the homeless and or feeding the poor and less fortunate. Despite a show of compassion a Pocatello/Chubbuck School District, a Food Service Worker was placed on leave from her job last week at an Irving Middle School for giving a hot lunch to a student who told the worker that she was hungry and did not have the $1.70 to pay for the meal. Food Service worker, Dalene Bowden allowed the student to eat without a charge. Bowden was later informed by letter that she had been terminated completely. Apparently, Bowden is the not the first food worker to be fired for feeding a child.
Bowden was dismissed without even issuance of her final paycheck. The School Board voted to dismiss Bowden from her position over the $1.70 meal, even after Bowden offered to pay the bill. In light of protests from social media in support of Bowden being reinstated, she has now been accused of “theft of school district property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food.” However, Bowden has worked for District 25 for the past three years and has never been written up or reprimanded for her job performance, except the one time she gave a student a free cookie. Bowden said, “This is just breaking my heart.”
Our nation spends millions of dollars every year on video gaming including conferences and competitions, sports games, restoration of band memorabilia, and many other largely unnecessary projects because they are what people are spending the most money on. Meanwhile, a hungry child cannot get a hot lunch without someone losing their job. Why cannot we afford to give free lunches and free education – oh yes, including free college, to America’s children? School Districts feed thousands of children every day. Many are on free and reduced lunch programs. If a child is registered as “cold lunch” recipient, he or she will be charged for milk or any snacks given freely to reduced and no-cost meal plan students. That does not seem astronomical – the school was not planning to have enough milk for one child who was supposed to have a cold lunch, presumably with a drink. Okay. I’ll buy that. What about if a child registered for hot lunch, decided to bring a lunch from home one day? Well, he or she would have to purchase a milk or other beverage event though the school had “expected” to feed him or her, since taking only the beverage would leave someone with a hot lunch without a drink… even though that drink would have been an extra? (It’s too confusing to go on. I digress.) This ludicrous situation happens because when the government cuts budgets to make room for pork projects, it first gouges education – which extends to school food programs.
What is the purpose of dumbing down our nation? That is what happens when education is underfunded. Talented people are discouraged from entering the teaching field because they fear not being able to pay their bills on a teacher’s salary. Highly skilled Raushelle Guzman, also of Pocatello, launched an online petition in favor of Bowden’s rehire. As of Monday, more than 1,800 people had signed. She believes that Bowden did the right thing. “ I think we need to make sure that every child that wants lunch can have lunch,” Guzman said, “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.” Interim Superintendent Douglas Howell confirmed that District 25 works to ensure availability of free or reduced hot lunches to economically disadvantaged students. It also participates in the local weekend backpack program that sends food items home with needy students each Friday after school.
At the school where Bowden worked, students are generally extended a credit limit of $11. If they are over their charge limit, they will still be provided something to eat, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and milk. Therefore, there is no way clear to understand why a woman lost her job for basically extending to one student, a credit of $1.70. That is ridiculous. The student should still have $9.30 for a few more meals.
What is worse, students who cannot pay are treated with a complete lack of dignity. Bowden said that, “…if a child is over the [lunch] credit limit, workers are supposed to take their tray away and dump it [into the trash].” What is the point of throwing the food away instead of feeding the student? So, how much money does the garbage owe now for its “unpaid lunches?” Well, this is the year of Jubilee. I guess the trash can’s bill will be cancelled in the spirit of mercy and compassion.