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For Some In Overland Park, Ice Cream Truck's Jingle Is Sweet Pandemic Relief, But For Others It's Cause For Worry

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Olivia Love
/
KCUR
Six feet of social distancing may be hard to maintain, but Breña Hernandez takes her family’s ice cream from Jeff Haycock. Hernandez and her two brothers are doing school from home, and she says they enjoy taking a break for Haycock's ice cream.

In Kansas and Missouri, ice cream trucks can still deliver their Bomb Pops and Fudge Bars under stay-at-home orders, but some people wonder if they should.

Jeff Haycock would say his job is essential.

He has delivered ice cream to kids across the the Kansas City metro for 36 years on both sides of the state line. And because familis are cooped up all day long during the COVID-19 pandemic, Haycock says his mission — delivering smiles in the form of frosty treats — may be as important as ever now.

“Normally this time of year the kids are supposed to be in school," he said on a recent sunny weekday, making his rounds in Overland Park.

"But now the kids are out of school. And everybody's home."

Still, Haycock says he can tell many families and residents of the streets he visits are wary when he drives by in his blue van, that distinctive carnival jingle blaring from roof-mounted speakers.

“There are some neighborhoods where the kids literally stay inside and just the parents come out," he said.

Haycock is used to working evenings and weekends when the weather is nice. During the pandemic, though, his days have gotten longer because of increased demand on his routes.

“I start my day at like 12:30, sometimes before that. My day usually ends at dark."

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Olivia Love
Brian Hernandez and his daughter, Breña, decide which treats to get from Jeff Haycock's ice cream truck, which pulled up in front of their home in Overland Park, Kansas.

Brian Hernandez and his family live in Overland Park in a neighborhood near Meadowbrook Park. When Haycock drove by on a recent sunny weekday afternoon, they left their home (all of them) to buy some treats.

Hernandez said he was excited about Haycock's new hours. With three kids doing school from home, a break was a welcome distraction.

“The fact that they can get some ice cream without having to go anywhere is pretty nice!” Hernandez said.

He also liked the fact that his kids are building a relationship with Haycock, who brings ice cream around regularly these days.

Hernandez’s wife, Cinthya, said they were still careful to respect social distancing procedures and are happy to see Haycock wearing gloves.

“It’s a positive spot to our day; we try to be careful not to go too close," she said.

However, some people in the neighborhood have concerns.

On the popular messaging app NextDoor, dozens of people living in the same area as the Hernandez family have expressed confusion and even anger over ice cream trucks appearing on their streets. Some questioned how “essential” the service is and wondered whether ice cream trucks are in violation of statewide stay-at-home orders in Kansas.

It appears they're not. In both Kansas and Missouri, food delivery services are deemed essential under the stay-at-home restrictions, which are in place in both states until May 3.

Several NextDoor users in this Overland Park neighborhood said they planned to report any ice cream trucks they saw to police or county health officials, but the Johnson County Public Health Department told KCUR in an emailed statement that they have not received any complaints about ice cream truck deliveries.

When asked if ice cream trucks should refrain from delivering their treats during the pandemic, a county health department spokesperson replied in a written statement: "The recommendation is that all businesses and individuals adhere to the physical distancing guidelines, wash hands often and stay home unless conducting essential business."

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Olivia Love
Jeff Haycock has delivered ice cream in the Kansas City metro for 36 years and says his work days during the pandemic are actually longer than they were before the coronavirus hit.

Ultimately, the Hernandez family is happy to have Haycock come through their neighborhood every so often. The parents say they're glad to support a local business, and the Hernandez kids are excited to get an ice cream break while doing school from home.

For Haycock, the extra business is welcome during these uncertain times. He is happy to be able to be a bright spot in some people’s days.

“I’ve been in the business 36 years, and this has been pretty good!”

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