BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Constance Rothchild said she and her husband Kraig knew exactly where to bring their three kids for a warm meal. So when the Harper Creek Community Schools' yellow school bus pulled up near her home, they gladly boarded it.
“I love the fact that they did this,” said Constance, who went to Harper Creek High School as a teenager. “I prefer Harper over any other school district. I just love how they’re doing this for the community, for the Harper Creek families.”
The school district opened its high school’s cafeteria Thursday, serving free hot meals to the community. Close to 40 people walked through its doors to receive a plate of pizza, a pulled-pork sandwich, tater tots and a salad.
“They got free clothes you can get,” said Kraig while holding his youngest son in his arms. “Gloves, hats, sweats, blankets, books.”
The Rothchild kids walked up and down the aisles picking out what they wanted. Superintendent Rob Ridgeway, his staff and volunteers transformed part of the cafeteria to look like a clothing store. They laid out winter clothes and books on a few of the tables for people to surf through.
“With the weather conditions, we know that we have students and community members that are in need, not only of food but also of warmth,” said Ridgeway. “So we had a nugget of an idea to open up the school because we knew it was warm.”
The school actually first opened their doors on Wednesday he said. They’d sent out a robocall that morning letting people know that they were offering free meals. However only a few people showed up. This morning, they called families individually and sent buses to their doorsteps.
“We knew we had food because we closed school for four days and we have a lot of extra food around that we had planned to serve to kids,” Ridgeway said. “Because of that, we got together and thought what can we do. And everybody stepped up.”
Ridgeway said the event was a collective effort involving the school’s staff, their food and transportation directors and volunteers. Considering at least 40 percent of the school’s student population was on free or reduced lunch, they felt it was important to feed them.
“On a daily basis we’re feeding breakfast and lunch and we’re also providing snacks for dinner sometimes,” Ridgeway said. “We do everything we possibly can do so kids don’t go hungry.”
Constance said the school district has always been helpful to the community and to her family specifically. There’s been times in the past when her family was short on money. The school gave them winter clothing and anything they needed. This time around, when they needed certain items, they knew exactly where to go.
“I am eternally grateful for Harper Creek School District,” Constance said.
***Note: Depending on Friday's weather, classes may resume. Please call the school's office for more information on how to receive food free of charge.***