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School kitchen manager fired for giving lunch to hungry students

Would you chance losing your job to help children in need? One mother of two did and unfortunately suffered the consequences.

Sometimes doing the right thing will cost you your job.

It’s a decision Della Curry would make again if placed in the same situation. The 35-year-old mother of two was recently fired from her job as a kitchen manager at Dakota Valley Elementary School. Curry violated school district policy, according to The Daily Mail, that makes it a fireable offense to give away meals.

“I had a first-grader in front of me, crying, because she doesn’t have enough money for lunch,” Della told CBS 4 in Denver. “Yes, I gave her lunch.”

Admitting to handing out close to 20 free lunches (CBS 10 News mentions she paid for most), Curry understands the consequences of her actions but hopes they set the stage to discuss a bigger issue. “If me getting fired for it is one way that we can try to change this, I’ll take it in a heartbeat,” said Della.

Cherry Creek School District in Colorado, like many districts across the country, have programs set up to help make lunch affordable. Free lunch is available to a family of four with an income no greater than $31,000. There’s also a discounted or reduced lunch option for families earning less than $45,000. CBS Denver indicates those who don’t qualify can receive a slice of cheese on a hamburger bun and a small carton of milk. “I will never understand how the ‘best’ country in the world considers a cheese sandwich to be adequate nutrition for a child,” said Della. She’s also quick to point out that students whose parents earn too much to qualify for assistance can still fall short when it comes to having enough money to feed their kids.

Curry notes the children she helped feed did not qualify for any programs.

Since her termination, the Cherry Creek School District has issued the following statement:

“The law does not require the school district to provide the meal to children who have forgotten their lunch money, that is a district decision. According to our practice, we provide hot meals to students the first three times they forget their lunch money and charge their parents’ accounts. The fourth time, we provide a cheese sandwich and milk.

The district has worked to keep lunch prices low and still meet the federal nutrition requirements. The costs of our lunch program are not covered by the prices we charge. At the end of the year, any unpaid accounts revert back to the general fund which also covers instruction, security, building maintenance and overall operations.”

While I can certainly understand adhering to company policy, I do commend people like Della Curry, who look at the bigger picture. This is a far cry from schools that think it’s OK to throw away a student’s lunch if they can’t pay.

More on school lunch

How school lunch has changed for kids
What you need to know about school lunches
School lunch advocacy

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