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New Hampshire cafeteria worker, fired for giving boy free lunch, is shocked employer called her 'dishonest'

Bonnie Kimball said she was fired after she let a student take lunch when he didn't have money.
Image: Bonnie Kimball, a lunch lady in New Hampshire, was fired after giving a student lunch when he was unable to pay.
Bonnie Kimball, a lunch lady in New Hampshire, was fired after giving a student lunch when he was unable to pay.NBC Boston

A New Hampshire cafeteria worker fired from her job after she reportedly gave a student free lunch because he didn't have money said she is shocked her former employer is accusing her of lying.

Bonnie Kimball's firing caught national attention last week after she said she received a letter from her employer, Cafe Services, telling her that she had been terminated.

Kimball, who worked for the company's school subdivision, Fresh Picks Cafe, told the Union Leader newspaper that a Mascoma Valley Regional High School student picked up several a la carte items but did not have money in his account, so she let him take them and quietly told the student to have his mother put money in his account.

On March 29, a day later, the boy paid his lunch bill but Kimball said she was called in by two managers who fired her over the tab.

Fresh Picks Cafe president Brian Stone said In a YouTube statement Monday that the student had not been charged for lunch or any of the four additional items he had. Furthermore, Stone said a review of the student's account showed that the child had not been charged for the previous three months.

"The employee told the manager that she charged the student's account for lunch, but the manager later confirmed there were no charges on the account, so what the employee said was not true," Stone said. "Every student in the lunch line gets a lunch, so there was no reason for her not to charge the account."

He added: "This employee was dishonest and was let go for not following procedures."

Kimball told NBC Boston in a phone interview Monday that she couldn't believe what Stone said.

"I was like, 'Wow, I can't believe it,'" she said.

Kimball also insisted that she did nothing wrong.

"I made sure the meal was paid for," she told NBC Boston. "To me, letting that kid go hungry because he didn't bring any money that day, that would have been wrong."

Fresh Picks Cafe said students are not denied a standard lunch if they don't have money, but per the school's policy they need money in their account or cash for a la carte items. The company said the student had a full standard lunch on his tray, along with fries and two packages of cookies, which are both a la carte.

Kimball also gave the student a Powerade when he got to the register, the company said.

"Not only should she not have allowed the additional a la carte items, but she did not record or charge any of the items, including the main lunch, to the student account so they could be paid in the future," Fresh Picks said.

After consulting with the school district, Fresh Picks Cafe later offered Kimball her job back. A spokeswoman for the company said Tuesday that they do not believe Kimball will accept the offer.

After celebrity chef José Andrés caught wind of the story, he posted a tweet offering Kimball a position with his company, Think Food Group. It's not clear if Kimball will accept the offer, and a request for comment from Andrés' spokesperson was not immediately returned.