-- A woman says she was fired from her job in an elementary school cafeteria for helping students who forgot to bring money for lunch.
Della Curry, 35, was terminated from her position as a kitchen manager at an Aurora, Colorado, elementary school on Friday for giving such students free lunches, she told ABC News' Clayton Sandell today.
“I was let go for not charging for all of the food I gave to the students,” the former Cherry Creek School District employee said. “I would have kids start crying when I told them they didn’t have money in their account because they were terrified of getting the cheese sandwich.”
The district’s policy is to give a student a hot meal and charge the parent’s account the first three times they forget lunch money, communications director Tustin Amole told ABC News today. The fourth time, the student is given a cheese sandwich -- a single slice of cheese on a hamburger bun -- and a milk.
Curry felt she could not stand by and keep letting it happen.
“It’s not nutrition. It’s not healthy,” she said. “It’s wrong on so many levels, and I hated to see food go to waste. I hated to see food thrown away that could’ve been given to these children that are hungry.”
Curry was supposed to take the students’ food, throw it away and replace it with the cheese sandwich and milk if a student had exceeded the $7.60 debt limit, she said. Instead, she would cancel the transaction and remind the student to bring their lunch money.
The district could not comment on the allegations, citing privacy for all personnel, but Amole said the district’s current lunch policy has been in place for at least five years.
Almost one-third of students in the district qualify for the national Free and Reduced lunch program, which Amole noted is separate from the cheese sandwich policy. A family of four had to make less than $44,123 annually to qualify for reduced-price meals and less than $31,005 annually to qualify for free meals this previous school year, according to the National School Lunch Program.
Curry acknowledged that her actions went against the district’s policy and when asked why she did it, Curry said, “Because it was the right thing to do and sometimes doing what is right is not what is easy.”