LOS ANGELES – Arnold Villalobos says he was simply trying to feed hungry kids, but his good intentions led to him being fired.
Villalobos coached football, basketball and softball and worked as a special education assistant at Center Middle School in Azusa.
During the school’s lunch hour, he says he noticed several students simply throwing away apples, oranges and bananas that they received in the lunch line.
Villalobos says he put a box in the lunch area and asked students who didn’t want the fruit to put it in there instead of throwing it away.
For three years, students who were hungry were encouraged to grab snacks out of the box.
Last month, a food service worker told Villalobos that it was against health codes to redistribute food that had already been served.
He says he immediately stopped the collection, but was placed on suspension.
KNBC reports that he was eventually fired because “taking” fruit from students was not permitted.
After word spread that Villalobos had been fired, parents and students began protesting.
“I think they’re making a really big mistake if they don’t bring him back,” Amy Olivares said.
Azusa Unified Superintendent Linda Kaminski would not talk about the case with KNBC, but said the district has a program that collects uneaten fruit and cleans it to re-serve to students.
However, she couldn’t provide details on when the program was launched or how much fruit had been re-served.
Villalobos said he had seen no evidence of such a program, other than what he was doing.