The Unfortunate Reason a Lunch Lady Was Fired for Helping Kids in Need

June 3rd 2015

Laura Donovan

Della Curry, who was kitchen manager at Dakota Valley Elementary School, is out of work after providing lunches to students who couldn't afford to eat. The school district let her go last week for giving away food to those who don't qualify for the free or reduced lunch programs.

"I had a first grader in front of me, crying, because she doesn't have enough money for lunch," Curry told CBS Denver. "Yes, I gave her lunch. I’ll own that I broke the law. The law needs to change."

Curry said that she paid for lunch herself on more than one occasion for kids who didn't have the money to eat, adding that students who don't qualify for the free or reduced lunch program get a hamburger bun with cheese inside and some milk. This, she said, is not enough.

Darnell Hill, a parent at the school, told CBS Denver that Curry came to his son's rescue when the child forgot to bring food money to school.

“Do something different than fire her," Hill said. "She’s trying to help.”

Of course, Hill's action speaks to a greater need for more funding for lunches in the district, which is following policy, but is not solving the problem. Curry feels her termination will be worthwhile if it sparks some change in the community and allows hungry children to get the nutrients they need at school.

“If me getting fired for it is one way that we can try to change this, I’ll take it in a heartbeat,” she said.

Curry's experience at the school appeared to be mostly positive, according to one of her recent Facebook posts, adding that the school itself "had no say in [her] termination." Her goal is to get the district to change its lunch program so no student has to starve. 

"The staff at Dakota Valley are some of the most dedicated, caring, supportive and loving people I have ever had the honor of working with," she wrote. "This is just the jumping off point, if anyone has contacts within the school board, local and state government or anyone else that can help change this situation, please let me know!"

Cherry Creek School District released a statement on the matter shortly after Curry's firing went public, "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."