By Don Lowe

Joplin Schools is working hard to ensure necessary nourishment to all students and families when they need it most as this continuing coronavirus crisis has forced regular classes to be cancelled through the remainder of this school year.

While this is ever-evolving, as of early April, Rick Kenkel, director of child nutrition with Joplin Schools, noted, “Currently, we’re producing 2,100 breakfasts and lunches per day. We’re providing meals for all seven days of the week.

“We’re producing close to 30,000 meals per week for families of the Joplin community. The number has increased every day.”

In early March, when COVID-19 began rapidly impacting our nation, Kenkel thought back on how Joplin Schools quickly began brainstorming its strategy and recalled, “The Nutrition Services administrators began to create an emergency meal distribution plan.”

Of course, a number of things had to be considered, according to Kenkel, such as, “Would we feed people at all school locations? Could we deliver meals into neighborhoods with families who do not live close to school?

“How can we have parents pick up meals at our locations, while avoiding more than 10 students and staff congregating? How can we keep our staff safe and avoid as much personal contact as possible?”

There were numerous questions that had to be addressed and from there, Kenkel explained, “During spring break, a new menu was created to replace the traditional menu that would have been served (if students had returned to school).

“Cafeteria managers from each school were summoned during spring break for a meeting. They created new grocery orders and organized their staffs to meet the new demands of feeding kids ‘curbside.’ Thursday and Friday of spring break, nutrition services warehousemen pulled groceries and delivered the new menu items to each location.”

After that, it was time to get an estimate on the total number of individuals who needed to be served the Monday following spring break, and Kenkel remembered, “We had to create a survey to capture how many meals to produce.

“After the survey link went out to all our families through district text messaging, Facebook and Twitter, we started receiving requests. By Sunday night, we’d received more than 2,500 requests for meals.”

Kenkel, in detailing how food prep and getting everything delivered came together over the initial few days of this effort, said, “On Monday morning, the Nutrition Services staff arrived and started preparing 2,500 meals and 10 percent extra. This wasn’t easy, because each meal consisted of Monday’s breakfast and lunch, and Tuesday’s breakfast.

Kenkel said by mid-morning on Monday, “Eight buses from Joplin Schools transportation department arrived at several schools to pick up meals to be delivered into our community at 25 bus stops. Another eight buses arrived to deliver to the homes of special education students determined to be most in need.”

That all took place before even one-half day was done.

“At 11 am, the dinner bell rang and all school locations wheeled food to the curbsides for grab-and-go meal service. After the 12 pm closing bell and the dust had settled, we served 1,367 meals.

“On Tuesday, we served 1,569 breakfast and lunch meals. On Wednesday, a partnership with Joplin Head Start began. They delivered 400 more meals to their pre-school families. We served, through curbside and bus stops, an additional 1,600-plus meals, making a total of 2,000-plus meals that reached families in need.”

This is all about serving a need, and Kenkel gave tremendous credit to the Eagle Nation on the front lines. “All I can say is ‘wow’ and ‘lunch ladies are true heroes’ in putting the students’ wellbeing first.

“As many of the Nutrition Services staff would say, ‘I have to feed my babies. What and how are my kids going to eat?’”

Indeed, feeding the hungry is what it’s all about.


Joplin Schools Nutrition Services

Fast Facts


There are three nutrition services administrators
and 17 cafeteria managers

Schools Preparing Meals (Curbside Grab-and-Go):

Cecil Floyd Elementary / Columbia Elementary / Eastmorland Elementary / Irving Elementary / Jefferson Elementary / Kelsey Norman Elementary / McKinley Elementary / Royal Heights Elementary / Soaring Heights Elementary / Stapleton Elementary / West Central Elementary / North Middle School / South Middle School / East Middle School / Joplin High School

Bus Stops with Meal Distribution:

Route #100 (West)

Iron Gates Church / 11 am – 11:10 am

Quail Valley Loop Trailer Park / 11:20 am – 11:30 am

Route #101 (West)

Kid’s Corner Daycare / 11 am – 11:10 am

Junge Stadium Parking Lot / 11:20 am – 11:30 am

7th Street Walmart / 11:40 am – 11:50 am

Route #102 (South)

Campbell Reserve / 11 am – 11:10 am

Copper Points Apts. / 11:20 am – 11:30 am

Route #103 (South)
Roi S. Woods Bldg / 11 am – 11:10 am

Hampshire Apts. / 11:20 am – 11:30 am

YMCA / 11:40 am – 11:50 am

Route #104 (South)

McClelland Park / 11 am – 11:10 am

Sam’s (Southeast Corner) / 11:20 am – 11:30 am

Fireworks Stand (Saginaw) / 11:40 am – 11:50 am

Route #105 (East)

Turkey Creek Trailer Park / 11 am – 11:10 am

15th Street Walmart / 11:20 am – 11:30 am

15th Street-Michigan Street Apts. / 11:40 am – 11:50 am

Route #106 (East)

Beacon School on Irwin / 11 am – 11:10 am

Country Acres Trailer Park / 11:20 am – 11:30 am

Toys R Us Parking Lot / 11:40 am – 11:50 am

Route #107 (North)

Boys & Girls Club / 11 am – 11:10 am

Main & Zora Trailer / 11:20 am – 11:30 am

Memorial Hall Parking Lot / 11:40 am – 11:50 am

Route #108 (North)

Lone Elm & Zora / 11 am – 11:10 am

North Park Apts. / 11:20 am – 11:30 am

Head Start-North Main / 11:40 am – 11:50 am


Quotable: “Joplin Schools is blessed to have 89 amazing and dedicated lunch ladies who serve our students every day, no matter if it is through traditional serving lines, curbside grab-and-go, community bus stops, special education bus routes or head start deliveries.”–Rick Kenkel, Director of Child Nutrition with Joplin Schools