New Hampshire cafeteria worker fired after letting student not pay for his lunch

PHOTO: Bonnie Kimball says she was fired by the food services company she worked for at Mascoma Valley Regional High School in West Canaan, New Hampshire, after giving a student free lunch when he didnt have money to pay.PlayABC News
WATCH Cafeteria worker fired after letting student not pay for his lunch

On a Thursday in March, when a New Hampshire high school student wanted lunch but had forgotten to bring money to school, a lunch lady named Bonnie Kimball told him not to worry about it. He could bring the money the next day.

“I just told him, ‘Have your mom send in some money tomorrow,’” Kimball told ABC News, adding that she “had no doubt he would pay for his meal the next day.”

And, sure enough, the next day “he brought the money in at 7:30 in the morning ... and paid his account in full,” Kimball said.

But it didn't end there.

Later that day, the district manager of Fresh Picks, the food services company that employed Kimball, informed her that she had committed "theft" and was out of a job.

Now, Fresh Picks appears to be offering Kimball her job back -- but it's not clear that she wants it.

As Kimball spoke to ABC News, the school district’s superintendent Amanda Isabelle released a statement saying that after she had spoken with Fresh Picks and the company had agreed to reinstate Kimball with back-pay.

"The events of these past few weeks and the feedback I have received from parents has given me considerable pause," Isabelle said in the statement. "As a school district, we understand the importance of rules and procedures, but upon reflection, I have become sufficiently convinced that it is wrong of us to assume that all the responsibility falls to the vendor, and I do not believe our communities would accept that explanation of this situation. We must be accountable for the people who work in our schools."

PHOTO: Bonnie Kimball says she was fired by the food services company she worked for at Mascoma Valley Regional High School in West Canaan, New Hampshire, after giving a student free lunch when he didnt have money to pay. ABC News
Bonnie Kimball says she was fired by the food services company she worked for at Mascoma Valley Regional High School in West Canaan, New Hampshire, after giving a student free lunch when he didn't have money to pay.

It was not clear that the company had reached out to Kimball directly with a job offer.

“I’m not bailing them out, I’m not gonna do it,” Kimball told ABC affiliate WMUR.

While she has kind words for her experience at the Canaan, New Hampshire, high school, Kimball was less enthusiastic about Fresh Picks.

The school should bring on another vendor -- one “that will treat the children better,” she said.

“They’ll never have another kitchen crew like we were. We made those lunches with love. We weren’t just lunch ladies,” she told ABC News. “We went above and beyond our job and made sure the kids got what they wanted and how they liked it.”

In fact, Kimball has said that two other employees in the Mascoma lunchroom quit to protest her termination.

A termination letter provided to ABC News by Kimball said that she was fired for violating cash handling procedures and school and federal policies.

“On March 28, a District Manager was on-site and witnessed a student coming through the line with multiple food items that you did not charge him for,” the letter said. “This in strict violation of our Cash Handling Procedures, the Schools Charge Policy and Federal Regulation governing free meals. Your final pay will be processed and disbursed to you.”

But the district manager was standing right next to her when she gave the student the free lunch, Kimball said, and called the way her termination was handled “unprofessional.”

Kimball, who worked for Fresh Picks for four-and-a-half years, spoke about how much she misses her students.

“I miss all the kids,” she said. “I still stay in touch with a lot of them. I stop by the school and I go to sports events, but it’s not the same as being with them every day.”