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THE BUS STOP IS A 'START': School buses deliver food to community during COVID-19 outbreak

During the COVID-19 outbreak, school districts are offering food to families in need. One has chosen a unique way to reconnect with its community—by school bus.

WALKER, Mich. — As the coronavirus outbreak continues, most school districts in West Michigan are offering both breakfast and lunch for parents to pick up daily at the schools.

Some schools are offering delivery or neighborhood drop-off.

But one West Michigan school district has decided upon a unique form of delivery that has has a touch of something fleeting these days.


Kenowa Hills Public Schools, which is in the Kent ISD School District, is delivering food to families in the community, using its school buses.

RELATED: Kent ISD schools providing meals for kids while students are required to stay home

"We talked as a team about how difficult this would be for all families within our community," said Gerald Hopkins, Kenowa Hills superintendent. "We got six buses and six of our drivers and started delivering meals Tuesday."

Credit: WZZM
Kenowa Hills Superintendent, Gerald Hopkins practices "Social Distancing" during his interview with us, while the food was distributing.

The school's food service personnel gather at the high school at 7 a.m. every morning to prepare the food.

"With school being closed, we're using the food products that we have in our different kitchens," added Theresa Boos, who heads up the school's food service department. "We are using it up so it's not going to go to waste."

The six buses do their normal routes when picking kids up for school. The food drop-offs happen at the regular bus stops. Families line up as though they're going to board the bus, but instead, somebody is standing on the steps to hand out bagged breakfasts, lunches and books.

Nobody goes without.

"We're serving all the families whether they're our students or students who live in the district," said Hopkins.

In line at one of the bus stop locations to get food was 13-year-old El Holdren and her younger brother, Andrew. They got breakfast and lunch that would get them through Wednesday.

"I know that for a lot of kids they rely on breakfast and lunch at school," said Holdren. "This is a really nice way for Kenowa to help us out during these tough times."

When asked what she got in the food bags, El said, "Fritos, an apple, some dried cranberries and a sandwich."

Hopkins says he plans to ride a different bus every day so he can use the time to reconnect with the community, while using social distancing, of course.

"This is my way of checking in on our students," said Hopkins. "Making sure that all of our families are fed is first and foremost right now."

When one drop-off is done, it's on to the next, where more familiar faces await. For everybody to see each other healthy and happy is just as important as the food that's being distributed.

"All the kids want to hug me," said Boos. "But I say, 'You can't with everything going on.'"

The buses will be doing food drop-offs at the usual bus stops every day, between 10:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., for the three weeks Gov. Gretchen Whitmer mandated that school be off. School officials say they will determine if they can continue the effort through spring break.

RELATED: Whitmer orders all Michigan K-12 schools to close for 3 weeks

"We'd like to believe that we give our love every day," said Hopkins. "This is a different way of doing it."

Kenowa Hills is among 20 schools in the Kent ISD District that is providing meals for families in need. Below is a complete list of all the schools, days, times and drop-off locations for each:

Byron Center Public Schools

Beginning Monday, 3/16  - 1 p.m.-2 p.m. at Brown Elementary & Byron Center High School. Additional planning and details being finalized Monday.

Caledonia Community Schools

Monday-Thursday - 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Duncan Lake Middle (behind school at Food Service & Shipping doors)

Cedar Springs Public Schools

Beginning Monday, 3/16 - 11 a.m. at Cedar Springs High School, with more details to come.  

Comstock Park Public Schools

Monday, Wednesday, Friday - 11:30 a.m.-12 p.m. at York Creek Leasing Office Area, 10:30 a.m.-11 a.m. at Mobile Home Park on West River Dr., 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Comstock Park High School.

East Grand Rapids Public Schools

Staff have coordinated with Grand Rapids Public Schools, or existing food service providers, to ensure families know about available meal pick-up sites. Additionally, door-to-door meal deliveries have been arranged for those who need them. Families can contact amorey@egrps.org for information.

Forest Hills Public Schools

Tuesday, Friday - 11 a.m.-1 p.m. & 5 p.m.-7 p.m. at Central High School, Eastern Middle/High School, Northern High School.

Godfrey Lee Public Schools

Monday-Friday - 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Early Childhood Center (outside gym), of Godfrey Elementary (in front), Lee Middle/High School (in back).

Godwin Heights Public Schools

Wednesdays  - 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at North Godwin Elementary.

Grand Rapids Public Schools

Monday-Friday  - 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. New Faith Temple, San Juan Diego Academy, Creston Plaza Apartments, Campau Commons, Hope Academy, Sibley Elementary, Ottawa Hills High School.

Grandville Public Schools

Varies Wednesday, Friday 3/18, 20 - 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Grandville Middle. Monday, Wednesday, Friday 3/23, 25, 27 - 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Grandville Middle. Monday, Wednesday 3/30, 4/1 - 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Grandville Middle.

Kelloggsville Public Schools

Beginning 3/18 & 20, then Monday, Wednesday, Friday through 4/3 -  11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Kelloggsville High School (Division Ave. entrance student drop off area).

Kenowa Hills Public Schools

Beginning 3/17, Monday-Friday through school closure - 10:15 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at planned bus routes, staff will deliver meals to students or parents throughout neighborhoods in the district. Weekend meals planned for Friday deliveries with the help of community partners

Kent City Community Schools

Monday-Friday - 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at Kent City Elementary (atrium and bus drop off areas).

Kentwood Public Schools

Tuesday, Friday - 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in cafeterias at Glenwood Elementary, Crestwood Middle, Valleywood Middle, Freshman Campus.

Lowell Area Schools

Tuesday, Friday - 11 a.m.-12 p.m. & 6 p.m.-7 p.m. at Alto Elementary and at Impact Church.

Northview Public Schools

Monday, Wednesday, Friday - 5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at Northview High School.

Rockford Public Schools

Beginning 3/17, then Monday-Friday until further notice - 9 a.m.-11 a.m. from Rockford High School (door #3 located at the front). Extra meals will be provided on Fridays for the weekend. For additional food-related needs, families can call 616-863-6037.

Sparta Area Schools

3/17 and Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays - 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Sparta High School (main entrance).

Beginning 3/18, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays - 10:15 a.m.-10:45 a.m. at Balyeat Field (parking lot), Algoma Township Sports Park (Algoma Ave. parking lot), Parkwood Green Village Community Center

11 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at Sparta Baptist Church (parking lot), Trinity Lutheran Church (parking lot), Riverview Mobile Home Park (playground), Glenwood Mobile Home Park

Thornapple Kellogg Schools

Monday, Thursday - 3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. at Thornapple Kellogg Middle (take service drive to loading dock).

Wyoming Public Schools

Monday, Wednesday, Friday - 12 p.m.-1 p.m. at West Elementary, Wyoming Junior High.

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