Cafeteria worker fired for giving lunch to student who couldn't pay for it

A New Hampshire school cafeteria employee thought she was doing the right thing when she gave food to a student who didn't have money to pay for his lunch, but the kind gesture got her fired.

Bonnie Kimball was an employee of the food vendor Cafe Services that provides food for the Mascoma Valley Regional High School, where Kimball has worked for five years, until she was accused of stealing over the $8 lunch tab.

Kimball said she and the staff all have a good relationship with the students. "We know these kids," Kimball said.

The New Hampshire Union leader reported that the student had several a la carte items on his tray but did not have money that day to pay for the food, so Kimball told him discreetly to ask his mom to add some money to his account and pay next time.

Even though the student paid his tab the next day, Kimball was still fired for "theft."

"It was my life for five years. I went and I took care of another family," Kimball said. "You don't just lose a family member, be OK and move on."

According to Kimball, her direct manager told her in February to let students take food and pay later if they didn't have money. Kimball claims that her manager was concerned of a pending contract renewal with the school.

A spokeswoman for Manchester-based Cafe Services said in a statement Thursday it "would never authorize an employee to not feed a student or staff member a meal." But the spokeswoman wouldn't confirm whether Kimball had been fired.

The incident comes as schools across the country are struggling to deal with how to address students who can't pay for their lunch. A 2011 survey found that a majority of district had unpaid lunch charges and that most dealt with it by offering students alternative meals.

The Associated Press contributed to this story