*When Della Curry, an elementary school kitchen manager in the Cherry Creek School District in Colorado, saw that there were kids who had no lunch money, she did the only thing she felt was right: fed them for free.
Apparently, the school had a different point of view: No money. No food.
Curry was fired.
“Parents put money on their kids’ accounts, and if they don’t qualify for the free or reduced lunch program, they are allowed to go negative on their accounts and borrow about $7.60, which is about three lunches,” Curry says. “After that, if they don’t have money for lunch, they get one slice of processed cheddar cheese – or, they say it’s cheddar though it’s got a two-year shelf life – on a hamburger bun and a small milk.”
The mother of two had been hired by Dakota Valley Elementary nearly a year ago. She had previously worked as a chef, and admits to Yahoo Parenting that she has “a passion for nutritious food.”
But unfortunately, as is generally the case with school lunches (in spite of the urging by First Lady Michelle Obama) these lunches are often anything but nutritious.
As manager, Curry often mans the cash register, and can see some students come through the line with a hot lunch, then realize their accounts don’t have enough credit. So she is expected to follow the district policy, which she finds hard to do.
“The policy is to then take their food from them and throw it away, and give them the cheese sandwich,” she says. “I couldn’t do it. When I had money I would put it in for them, and if I did not have money, I gave them the food.”
This practice backfired on Friday, when Curry’s kind heart got her fired.
“I will never say I was wrongfully terminated, because according to policy, I was not,” she says. “But it’s not right. No child should ever have to have that nutrition – it’s not nutrition – or that humiliation.”
The school district does provide free and reduced-cost school lunches, but to qualify for the free program, a family of four would need a household income of around $31,000, according to CBS 4. For reduced cost lunch, income would have to be below $45,000. The students Curry was giving lunch to, she says, were “the students who fall into the gap,” meaning their household incomes were higher than the threshold for reduced lunch, but the families sometimes didn’t have money to give the kids for school meals.
“Or, mom forgot to pack a lunch, or a check for lunch got lost at the bottom of a backpack. It happens, says Curry.”
Curry often found herself reaching out to these parents, or teachers, and guidance counselors, but says usually she learned something was going on at the home. A lot of the time she was able to get them back on track. But if she couldn’t do that, she just gave them the food.
Curry says she wouldn’t say her termination was wrongful, because it is a policy. But its a policy she strongly disagrees with.
“No child should be worried about eating at school,” she says. “I want school lunch to be an integral included part of every child’s education. I want it to be paid for through our taxes the same way the rest of their schooling is.”
You get no argument here, Ms. Curry. And I salute you!