A lunch lady in a Wilmington, Ohio, elementary school has been fired after giving free food to hungry children who couldn’t pay for their lunch.
Debbie Solsman said she gave food to Denver Place Elementary School students who were still hungry after eating their small-portioned state provided lunches.
“I sometimes would buy them an extra slice of pizza,” she told WXIX, “because I did feel them out, ask them what they had for supper the night before. Sometimes they would tell me ‘nothing.’”
The lunch lady, who worked in the school cafeteria for almost 15 years, paid for the children’s food out of her own pocket, or wrote IOUs and paid off the balance with her next paycheck.
But not paying for the food immediately is a violation of district policy, and the Wilmington City School District said that Solsman failed to repay food she provided to her grandchildren.
The district terminated the lunch lady in February for “Failure to account for food sales at [her] cashier job in the cafeteria and providing food without payment to [her] grandchildren.”
“It’s been really hard for me. I thought I was doing the right thing,” Solsman told WLWT.
“I did do wrong, I broke the rule, it was my fault, I just felt like termination was a harsh punishment,” Solsman said.
Some parents expressed outrage after learning of Solsman’s termination.
“Firing her over feeding kids, that’s a no go,” mother Serenity Mitchell told WLWT. “And our community is going to come together.”
District Superintendent Ron Sexton insists that no child in his jurisdiction ever went hungry at lunch time. He referred to district policy that provides students with past-due accounts a free cheese sandwich instead of the standard pizza or burger meal.
“For people to make the district out as heartless to kids’ needs is the hardest part. We care a great deal about our employees, we care a great deal about the students,” Sexton said.
Being let go from her job of 15 years has been hard on Solsman.
“I want those kids to know that I miss them, and that I love them very much,” an emotional Solsman said.
If she could go back in time, Solsman said she would do the same thing for hungry children at lunch time.