School Cafeteria Worker Terminated Over Free Lunch Offered Job Back

| by Reve Fisher
Dalene BowdenDalene Bowden

The school cafeteria worker who was terminated for “theft” by giving a hungry student a free meal has been offered her job back.

Dalene Bowden, who worked at Irving Middle School in Pocatello, Idaho, was fired after giving a hot meal to a 12-year-old student on Dec. 15. She offered to pay the $1.70 for the girl's lunch, but her supervisor refused, and the cafeteria worker was fired two days later.

Bowden has worked at the school for three years, and she told KPVI that more than 80 students told her they were hungry this school year alone. According to Interim Superintendent Doug Howell, about 53 percent of the district’s students receive reduced-price or free lunches.

The firing sparked a national outrage. A Facebook page called Give Dalene Bowden Her Job Back has gathered more than 7,000 likes. A GoFundMe page established for Bowden has raised $19,000 in three days.

Many residents of Pocatello believed Bowden’s dismissal was “absurd.” 

Dean Molder, a local resident, said, "If a kid cannot pay for a meal, or a parent cannot pay for a meal and a person is punished for feeding that kid. Somebody's got it wrong. Something is not right."

The outrage led District 25 to issue a press release on Dec. 23 to offer Bowden her job back.

“In the spirit of the holidays, the District has been in communication with Ms. Bowden extending an opportunity for her to return to employment with the District,” Howell stated.

Although Bowden loves working at the school, she is hesitant about returning.

“I have to think about it,” Bowden told The Idaho State Journal. “I’m afraid that they would just make my life miserable and then try to set me up, or get rid of me some other way.”

Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad said he met with Howell to discuss the effect the termination has had on the city. The city received dozens of phone calls about the incident, and the Pocatello social media networks were overflowing with comments about the firing.

“There really are a lot of really good people out there,” Bowden said. “I know that and I am just overwhelmed by the response.”

Sources: KPVI News, Go Fund Me, Give Darlene Bowden her job back/Facebook, Idaho State Journal / Photo credit: Give Darlene Bowden her job back/Facebook