Lunch lady fired for feeding needy student; rehired after backlash
WEBSTER GROVES, MO (KTVI) – A St. Louis County cafeteria worker was briefly out of a job after giving away free meals to a child in need.
According to KTVI, Dianne Brame worked as a cafeteria manager at Hudson Elementary in Webster Groves for two years, keeping kids’ bellies full for their all-important task of learning.
Recently, she came across a fourth grader who consistently came without money. She says he used to be on the free lunch program, but language barriers got in the way of reapplying.
“I sent (his family) paperwork so that they could get back in contact with me, but it didn’t happen,” Brame said.
For days, Brame came up with her own solution to the problem of feeding the hungry boy: She was sneaking him lunches.
“I let his account get over $45, and I’m only supposed to let it get over $10,” Brame said. “I started letting him come through my lunch line without putting his number in. They look at that as stealing. I thought it was just taking care of a kid.”
Brame says she was trying to protect the boy from the bullying, a cruel side dish to the default cheese sandwich given to kids without lunch money.
“The kids would ridicule him,” Brame said. “They’d tell them, ‘You don’t have any money. That’s why you have to eat cheese sandwiches every day.'”
On Tuesday, word about Brame’s breach of protocol got around to her supervisor, who then gave Bramea chioce: either leave, or move to another school in a demoted position. The 60 year-old felt she didn’t have a choice.
“My husband died in February, I lost my home, car got repo’ed,” she explained, “That school is in walking distance from me, so I took the firing.”
Gary Woodruff, whose daughter attends Hudson Elementary, found the punishment to be harsh:
“It just seems a little excessive that they would do that to a lunch lady,” Woodruff said. “I mean it’s a little bit ridiculous, especially nowadays with the economy and what not.”
According to Brame’s employer, she would have the ability to appeal the decision. Knowing she had violated protocol, Brame said, “Why bother?”
But as it turns out, the public did have the ability to appeal that decision for Brame. Citing a tremendously negative response to the lunch lady’s firing, the school district said they were planning to give Brame her old job back.
As for the lunch lady, she said if she had to do it all over again, she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I don’t think any kid should be hungry,” Brame said. “And it’s my belief that some of these kids who go to school and get meals, that may be the only meal they eat that day.”
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