Parents of students at 13 TPS schools were happy to hear of a new federally-funded meal program that will provide breakfast and lunch to all students-regardless of their income- at no cost. Topeka Public Schools is the largest district in the state to take part in the new program, which launches this school year.
Niki Jahnke, General Director of Child Nutrition Services for Topeka
Public Schools, is excited that all of the school applications she
submitted were approved for the program. “My ultimate goal was to make
sure every child eats breakfast and lunch, and to stop the stigma of
free and reduced meals in the lunch lines.” With this program, all
students, regardless of their income, will be provided with two
nutritious meals every school day, ensuring that hunger won’t interfere
The following schools will be receiving free meals this year:
Chase Middle School
Eisenhower Middle School
Robinson Middle School
Highland Park Central Elementary
Lowman Hill Elementary
Pine Ridge Prep
These schools were selected because of the percentage of student who
are directly certified, meaning students who are homeless, children of
migrant workers, receive food assistance, are foster children, attend
Head Start, or receive Temporary Assistance to Families (TAF). Janke
says she hopes to add more schools to the list in the coming years.
However, to do so the district would need documentation of directly
certified students. Officials in each school can help identify these
students, increasing the odds of adding schools to the program.
Students not attending one of the 13 free meals schools can still qualify for free and reduced lunch.
This program is not just beneficial to the students, but to the
district as well. The school district will save time and money
throughout the school year.
-Hours of paperwork to process free and reduced meal applications will be cut.
- For delinquent meal accounts, the district’s Nutrition Office sends
three notification letters, followed by one from the Business Office,
ending with the account being sent to a collections agency. This program
will eliminate labor and costs associated with this process.
and check meal payments will no longer have to be processed at schools,
and school officials will no longer have to leave their schools to make
-The district will save on postage for the thousands
of applications and hundreds of collections letters that are sent every
There has been some concern that providing free meals to
students was wasteful because students don’t care for the nutritional
standards introduced in 2012. However, new research suggests that
students seem to be acquiring a taste for the healthier fare and are, in
fact, cleaning their plates.
Janke echoes that sentiment, saying that after some trial and error,
food manufacturers have modified their products to meet the new
standards and school menus have been modified to offer more selection.
These efforts have led to tastier meals and happier students.
We are excited to offer this program to our students, and are looking forward to a wonderful new school year!