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Cafeteria worker says she lost job over free meals to student

by Diana Zoga / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on December 13, 2012 at 10:06 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 14 at 3:33 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- For the last two months, Dianne Brame says she knowingly broke a rule at her job in the Hudson Elementary School cafeteria and let a student eat hot lunches without paying for them. 

She says that cost her a job.

"I understand that the food wasn't mine to give," says Brame.  "I was wrong in my actions, but I don't think I was stealing."

Brame says a fourth grader came through the school lunch line without money to pay for a hot meal.  The student was part of the free lunch program last year and Brame suspects the family did not understand that they had to reapply this year.  The student told Brame his mother did not speak English and his father was always at work.  Brame says she sent notes home with the student, but never heard back. 

"Routinely, what I was supposed to give them were cheese sandwiches, plain cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread and a carton of white milk," but Brame continued to give the student hot lunches instead of sandwiches. 

"Kids can be cruel to see this kid eating cheese sandwiches day after day after day.  'You don't have any money in your account, that's why you have to eat cheese sandwiches'.   And my heart just couldn't tolerate that, so I broke the rule."

The Webster Groves School District says it never allows a child to go hungry, no matter the ability to pay.  Children are given a number complimentary hot meals, but if there's no payment for an extended period of time the child receives a cheese sandwich.   (When News 4 called the school district late Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson couldn't immediately confirm how complimentary hot meals are given before a student is served sandwiches).

Brame was employed by a food service management company that contracts with the Webster Groves School District.  Chartwells tells News 4 that it can not comment on personnel matters, but that it would look into whether Brame was treated fairly.  A district manager with Chartwells said she would reach out to Brame.

Brame tells News 4 that the supervisor who confronted her on Tuesday offered Brame a demotion -  a cooking position at another school. 

"I know it's no ones fault, but I don't have a car.  It takes me 45 minutes to walk down to this school," said Brame.

"Her alternative was to terminate me from my school that I loved a lot."

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