Joplin Schools discuss changes to lunch, breakfast for upcoming school year

JOPLIN, Mo. – As the school year approaches it’s important to know how districts plan to get students those vital meals safely.

A traditional lunchroom would be packed, like this here, students hanging out with their best friends, socializing much closer than six feet. But, COVID has changed that situation, and now, lunch will be a bit different. Director of Food Services Rick Kenkel says “In elementary we’re definitely looking at trying to do in the classroom at the beginning until we can socially distance and figure out our social distancing there, secondary, again, just spreading them out trying to get as much distance between the kids as we can.”

Kenkel says it’s breakfast and lunch in the elementary classrooms, although in some buildings the may be able to spread students out in the cafeteria or gymnasium. Same goes for secondary schools. Then, there’s those doing virtual learning, or, like the high school, with A-B days, so only half the students are actually on campus at a time. “We’re looking to somewhat mimic the curbside pickup that we had this summer, now, big difference is, it’s not free for everybody.”

Kenkel says that’s important because when schools first shut down, the district received some assistance to provide free meals to all students. Now, they’re back to the regular system which does mean families can apply for free and reduced lunches as well. Of course, not all buildings in Joplin are built alike. “We’re just working with each individual building principal as what best fits their needs in their building as well.”

The high school and middle schools will be offering kiosks for breakfast. “So we’re looking to offer a grab and go, they have to take a fruit, and then they can take a cereal or a pop-tart or some entree and a milk, that will try to hopefully roll students through those as quickly as we can.”

Kenkel says there will be socially distanced lunch lines.

Kenkel says parents who may have qualified for free or reduced lunches will need to apply again for this school year. He encourages those who’s employment situations have changed to apply and see if they qualify for assistance.