- Pocatello-Chubbuck School District No. 25
- Irving Middle School
The controversy at Irving Middle School in Pocatello erupted in December 2015 when Bowden was terminated for giving out the free lunch, worth less than $2. She insisted all she was trying to do was give a hot meal to a hungry student who couldn't pay for it. The story went viral online and was picked up by U.K.-based The Daily Mail and TV stations across the U.S.
One year later, Bowden told the Idaho State Journal that while she initially received an outpouring support for her actions, with more than 50,000 people signing an online petition demanding she be reinstated. Amid the uproar, the school district offered Bowden a position in a school kitchen, but not at Irving Middle School. Bowden said she declined the offer.
The State Journal reports a GoFundMe account was started by Bowden's niece, intended to help her get back on her feet. But things took a turn when the niece reportedly refused to give Bowden any of the money that was collected—amounting to $17,000. What's more, the State Journal reported Bowden's niece donated $10,000 of the total funds to the district that fired her aunt. A district spokeswoman said the money was used to create a fund to subsidize lunches for student who can't afford them. The State Journal added that the niece is a school district employee. Bowden said she would have used the money differently, but was still glad that "something good came from this."
Meanwhile, Bowden told the State Journal the melodrama has since "torn her family apart" and they've stopped talking to one another.