North KC making major changes to school lunches before students return this fall

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s shaping up to be a school year like none other.

The largest Missouri-based school district in the Kansas City metro has finalized plans for school lunches, and there are major changes awaiting students.

Making a meal plan for 21,000 students is a tough order, but leaders at North Kansas City School District and at Chouteau Elementary School, believe their ideas for 2020-2021 will work.

When elementary school-aged students return to campuses on September 8, they’ll receive their breakfasts and lunches in their classrooms. These provisions will also apply to hybrid-learning students at the middle and high school levels while taking classes on campuses. Jenna Knuth, this district’s director of food services, said that’s phase one of the district’s new meal plan.

“It’s extremely different. We have changed our food service plans time after time after time,” Knuth said.

Knuth pointed out school cafeterias aren’t designed for work during pandemics. Knuth said food bars and buffets will be gone for the time being, and classroom meals are planned to keep young people from gathering in large groups.

“That means the kids won’t touch everything in the cafeteria. We won’t have 300 hundred to 700 kids come through that same space and touch all the things in a short period of time. If they’re in the classroom, they’re really only going to touch their desk, which will be sanitized,” Knuth said.

When phase two of this plan begins, according to Knuth, students will be permitted to eat in school cafeterias only while using social distancing. Knuth said the district can’t progress into the second phase until public health officials approve.

Kurt Austin, an active PTA parent with two kids attending North Kansas City Schools, said he’s already seen this plan work. His school-aged kids, both of whom are at the elementary school level, attend a year-long school where this plan was successfully used this summer.

“I think it is a change. You’ve got that group of friends in your class, and friends outside your class. Lunchtime might have been that chance during the school day to see them, but now, they’re getting more time to spend with their classmates and teacher,” Austin said.

Knuth says her dietary employees will go back to serving curbside meals for students on August 24, two weeks before the school year opens. FOX4 also reached out to other large public school districts on each side of the state line. However, North Kansas City was the only school system prepared to release its plan for feeding students this fall.

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