Federal program provides meals for Kansas students

Joplin Area Coronavirus

KANSAS — Nearly every student in Kansas can get a free meal during the coronavirus outbreak thanks to a federal government program.

Barbara Alstrom is the food service manager at Washburn Rural High School in Shawnee County. Her meal preparation has been different this year – but she knows students have to eat.

Barbara Alstrom, Food Service Manager, WRHS, said, “There is a need for a good nutritious meal, yes, those kids need those meals.”

Washburn rural has nearly 2,000 students. They are using a hybrid schedule – so each day about half the students could going to school in their living room. They have the option to pick up a to go lunch and breakfast for the next day.

“We have to package, it has to be handed out. We’re not putting it on a tray like we would have last year, everything has to be in a container, so lot more work.”

The state is receiving money from the federal government for the free lunches. That program is expected to run out at the end of this year, but congress is debating a bill that would extend it for the entire school year, something that state officials are hoping for.

Cheryl Johnson, Kansas Dept. of Education, said, “Families across Kansas are struggling, some that have never struggled before because of either job furloughs, reduced number of days, or you know, jobs where there are days of quarantine.”

They say you can tell how important the program is to students and families.

“They’re getting thank you notes, and all of these special kind of forms of appreciation that often you don’t see, so we know how much it is needed. Everybody that I’ve handed out to is very appreciative, and they love the food, I think there’s still some out there that we could get to.”

Education officials encourage everyone to take advantage of the free lunch program. If you skip out on a meal when you’re student is doing online learning, the school receives less money – which can impact whether a school can pay food service workers.

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