WILMINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) — A cafeteria worker at an Ohio elementary school is speaking out after losing her job after more than a decade at the school.
Debbie Solsman worked in the cafeteria of Denver Place Elementary School in Wilmington for 14 years. During that time, Solsman did what she could for children who didn’t have lunch money.
“If they didn’t have enough money in their account, they would get a cheese sandwich instead. The other kids knew when they walked out into the cafeteria why they got the cheese sandwich,” Solsman told WCPO. “There were children that got a free lunch that would come back and say, ‘Miss Debbie, I’m still hungry.’ And you don’t know how many times I heard they didn’t have supper that night.”
Solsman took it upon herself to help those kids by upgrading their cheese sandwich to a more sustaining meal and even gave them extra food if they were still hungry. She kept IOUs and even paid the lunch balances herself. The school district still fired her in February for “Not keeping track of her register and providing food to her grandchildren without payment.”
Solsman doesn’t deny giving extra food to her grandchildren, but she says it wasn’t just her grandchildren who received a little bit more.
“I broke the rule,” Solsman admitted. “I’m the one that broke the rule … but in my heart, when that child tells me they’re hungry, do I believe them or just say, ‘No, you don’t need any more today?’ How do you determine the difference between that?”
In a statement, the school district said:
“Students are always given a complete lunch pattern meal, regardless of the monies in their account … Under no circumstances is a student ever denied a complete meal.”
The free meal is supposed to include a meat or meat alternative, fruit, vegetable, milk and grain as required by the National School Lunch Program.
The attention Solsman has drawn on social media has led to two job offers for the former cafeteria worker.