TOPEKA, Kan. – Ahead of Monday’s launch of Topeka Public Schools’ summer meal distribution, officials made changes to ensure the safety of the food staff at Topeka High School as they package free breakfast and lunch meals for children ages 1-18.
Temperatures are taken for every masked member of the food staff at the start of every bagging day and each are assigned their own hand washing station.
“My main job our main goal with the staff is feeding kids and doing it safely,” Chris Wagner, a Child Nutrtion Specialist for Topeka Public Schools said Friday. “We are passionate about what we do and we take the necessary precautions to keep it safe”.
Wagner said beginning June 1 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays children ages 1-18 can get free packages of breakfasts and lunches from one of fourteen drive through pickup sites in the district, regardless if they attend one of USD 501 schools and parents can grab the meals without the child present.
Each meal bag will consist of a produce item, milk, cereal and lunches meals that can be heated at home, due to COVID-19 restrictions that prevent the district from serving hot meals.
“It’s not just going to be your typical peanut butter and jelly we’ll have things like burritos, like nuggets, like pizza just items like that a mixture of stuff that they’ll be able to reheat when they get home.”
Wagner anticipates 2,000 children to be served during each distribution day and for the first time, they children can have meals every single day throughout the summer.
“One of the things in the past before COVID when we had a regular summer food program we didn’t ever feed on weekends,” Wagner said. “A waiver’s been put out through USDA so now we’re allowed to feed seven days a week which is a blessing because I know the community really needs this.”
Wagner said there are also changes to how the district is providing entertainment to those who pickup meals select weeks will include free book distributions through libraries and virtual activities from local partners.
“They’ll be having a virtual where they can do certain activities we’re going to be working with the zoo also so there will be a virtual where the kids can go online and see what the zoo puts out.”
However COVID-19 may impact schools in the fall, Wagner is determined to not leave any child hungry.
“We will feed the kids and if something changes we’ll find another way to feed the kids we will do whatever it takes to feed our children. “