Pocatello School District has responded to strong reaction of the community regarding the firing of Dalene Bowden. The district issued the following press release Thursday morning.
During the last few days, comments on Facebook and other articles have raised concern over reports of a Food Service employee and a student who received a free meal. The Pocatello/Chubbuck School District by Idaho law (33-518 and 74-106), is prohibited from commenting on the specifics regarding personnel matters. Therefore, the District has remained silent regarding the matter. However, generally speaking, the District wishes to let the public know that it does not and has not ever taken negative employment action against any food service worker due to a singular event of this nature as is being presented through the press and various social media sites.
During this holiday season, emotions and feelings abound in the spirit of giving and looking after the needs of others. The District works daily to help children who are hungry, who need healthcare, who are homeless and who are neglected and/or abused.
One of the ways the District helps children who are hungry is to insure that every student has an opportunity to take full advantage of programs offered under the Federal Food Service Program. Under this program students may receive meals at school, prepared by food service workers. The program also provides “free or reduced price” meals for children who qualify under specific income guidelines. The District encourages families to submit student eligibility applications for this program to ensure children get food during the school day. The Pocatello/Chubbuck School District’s participation rate for feeding enrolled students averages 53%, or approximately 6,500 students daily.
The Federal Food Service Program is highly regulated and controlled. The School District nor the Board or any other employee determine those regulations. Every meal is accounted for by federal guideline, meal production counts are recorded, and records are reviewed for compliance. The District jeopardizes it’s funding for the Federal Food Service Program if its employees do not follow the proper procedures and requirements. Just in the past two weeks, the District underwent a State of Idaho review of its
Food Service Program and received many commendations for maintaining and regulating the school’s local program to the highest standards. The Healthy Choice of fruits and vegetables offered by the District was recommended to showcase on the State’s website for outstanding “success stories” and a model for other districts to consider for implementation.
Our District focuses on the success of every student and recognizes nutrition is an important part of each student’s education and learning. In addition to the Federal Service Program, the District works directly with the Pocatello office of the Idaho Food bank and receives and distributes 1,000 packs of food each month to our students. Additionally, throughout the year and more so at this time of year, most schools participate in canned food drives with several tons of food collected for local families. Opportunities to serve and give are extended to students and staff with District Social Workers and Community Resource workers distributing food and other nonperishable items to assist families and children in need.
On behalf of the District we wish to recognize the efforts of our food service staff, schools, students and patrons and the Board of Trustees that make a positive difference in the lives of children in our community. Upon return from the holiday break the District will provide our food service staff with additional training on the various ways to get help for hungry children and the importance of the District’s compliance with various state and federal mandates associated with the Federal Food Service Program.
In the spirit of the holidays, Superintendent Howell advises that the District has been in communication with Ms. Bowden extending an opportunity for her to return to employment with the District.