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Bonnie Kimball was working at Mascoma Valley Regional High School, New Hampshire, when a pupil told her he didn't have the $8 to pay for his meal but promised to pay at a later date.
According to reports, however, a district manager from her employer, Café Services, spotted the incident during an inspection in March and she was fired the next day.
Speaking to Valley News, Ms Kimball said it was a tense time for the company because its contract with the school was coming to an end.
She said: "The student didn't have any money on their account. So, I have a district manager here, my boss has told me, 'Don't cause any scenes with the contract,' and I quietly said, 'Tell (your) mom you need money.'"
The next day Ms Kimball was called into a meeting by her boss and sacked.
"It was my life for five years," she said of her work. "I went and I took care of another family. You don't just lose a family member, be OK and move on."
A letter from Café Services dated 9 April, seen by CNN, explained the reason for Ms Kimball's termination. The news outlet reports the letter to read:
On March 28, a District Manager was on-site and witnessed a student coming through the line with multiple food items that you did not charge him for. This in strict violation of our Cash Handling Procedures, the Schools Charge Policy and Federal Regulation governing free meals. Your final has been processed and disbursed to you.
Jaime Matheson, human resources director for Café Services, told CNN that a pupil would not be left without a meal in these circumstances.
He said: "The student in question did receive a lunch. Students who come up to the lunch line without money receive a lunch of an entrée or sandwich plus side dishes or fresh fruit and milk. An employee of the company would not be let go because they provide this lunch to a student.
"We can't get into specifics because personnel decisions are confidential to honour privacy, however employees receive and sign their acknowledgment to company policies. When these aren't followed, corrective action is put in place, up to and including termination. We're all proud of our ability to provide meals to those in need."
Kimball told Valley News that the incident is not the fault of the school district, adding that she has received encouragement from officials.
Mascoma district's Interim Superintendent Amanda Isabelle told Valley News: "I really don't have anything to add, as horrible as that is to say," but referred to Ms Kimball's termination as a 'difficult situation'.
According to local reports, following Ms Kimball's dismissal, two other members of catering staff have quit in protest.
A GoFundMe has been started to raise money for Ms Kimball.
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