Curry had worked as a kitchen manager for the Dakota Valley Elementary School for about a year, and says she often saw students crying out of hunger because they couldn’t afford to pay for their school lunches. So, rather than see them suffer, she gave them food for free, often paying out of her own pocket. While most would view this as an act of common decency, Curry’s school district saw it as a good reason to fire her.
— Jessica Chasmar (@JessicaChasmar) June 3, 2015
"The law does not require the school district to provide a meal to children who have forgotten their lunch money," the district said in a statement.
For her part, Curry never denied that she had violated any policies or laws. But to her, it’s not the violation that was a problem, it’s the law itself.
"I had a first grader in front of me crying, because she doesn’t have enough money for lunch. Yes, I gave her lunch," she told KCNC-TV. "I’ll own that I broke the law. The law needs to change."
To that end, Curry took to Facebook to start a page called "No Child Goes Hungry" aimed at changing the laws and policies on school lunches.
"It’s time to make school lunch an integral and included part of every child’s school day," she wrote on the page.
While the school district does have a free lunch program, the federal income guidelines that qualify students for the program are very narrow. A family of four, for instance, cannot make more than $31,000 for the children to get free lunches.
Curry says that’s simply not good enough, as many students who don’t meet the guidelines still don’t have enough money to pay for lunch every day. Over the course of her year as a kitchen manager, she says she had given about 20 students a free hot lunch, all the time knowing that if her actions were discovered, she would get fired.
"While I know what I did was legally wrong, I do not feel bad about it," she wrote. "I would do it again in a heartbeat."
Curry, who is married and has two children, may not be out of a job for too long as famed US chef José Andrés has already offered her a job on Twitter, after hearing about her act of kindness.
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) June 4, 2015