College becomes home for evacuated families

11.45am

For the last eight days, more than 25 staff, students, and parents from Manawatu College have been providing, food, shelter and a shoulder to cry on to more than 80 people evacuated from Moutoa, near Foxton.

Teacher aide and food coordinator Rora Batt said she walked into the college early on the Tuesday morning and saw the evacuees and they touched her heart.

"I saw all these stranded people and their babies and thought we have to give them a hot meal."

The seventh form camp to National Park was postponed because of the weather so their food was used to provide breakfasts for cold and tired farmers.

Some nights during the week, farmers did not get back to the college until late but they would still get a hot meal, Mrs Batt said.

College board of trustees chairwoman Celeste Marsh said people had walked into the college on their last legs and burst into tears on seeing a roast dinner waiting for them.

Staff would then go home and be back at 6am to cook breakfast.

Mrs Marsh said someone had to co-ordinate the operation or everyone would be running around like headless chickens so Mrs Batt set up a roster and the operation had been working like clockwork.

There was always plenty of food and the meals were cooked on site in the food technology classroom with all six ovens in action.

Civil defence had paid for the food and the college volunteers ordered what they needed from the New World supermarket, Mrs Marsh said.

Principal Bruce McIntyre said the college wanted to help the farming community get back on its feet.

There was no pressure for them to leave and the cooking would carry on as long as it was needed.

Mr McIntyre said despite the number of staff involved, disruption to the students had been minimal.

- HOROWHENUA-KAPITI CHRONICLE (LEVIN)

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