By Matt Pascarella
We are in uncertain times. And for some families, that might mean they need a little extra help. The Backpack Program, which is available to students who receive free or reduced lunch (when school is in session) is now open to all families who have children in RSU14. Families do not need to be current or past recipients of the Backpack Program; during this time, all families are welcome. Organizers have even been delivering to families who do not have transportation or are quarantined.
This initiative is currently being funded through Backpack Program funds and using that money to purchase food. Program Director Marge Govoni, Chef Ryan Roderick and Director of School Nutrition, Jeanne Reilly have been working hard to make sure these bags are available to those that need them.
The bags ideally feed a family of four and are being supplemented with food left over from when school closed. A bag contains: milk cartons, fruits, vegetables, peanut butter, pasta, granola bars, canned fruit and other perishable items.
Families may pick up bags twice a week during this school closure. Police presence and maintenance staff will be on hand. Bags can be picked up at:
Windham Middle School, Auxiliary Gym Lobby – Tuesdays and Fridays 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Raymond Elementary School, Main Entrance – Tuesdays & Fridays 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
In order to practice social distancing, bags are placed in one area of the main entrance, when a family is seen approaching, they can grab the bag with little to no contact made during pickup.
If a family’s income has been impacted by COVID-19, and you would like your child to receive free or reduced school meals, they are encouraged to fill out an application, by logging onto www.myschoolapps.com. If you prefer a paper copy, the office will be happy to mail you a copy if you contact them.
If you qualify, when school is back in session, your child(ren) will be able to receive school meals every school day.
Any family who is unable to come to a pickup site may contact the school Nutrition Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207-892-1800 extension 2012. They have district volunteers who can deliver as needed.
“The program has provided much needed relief for families,” Roderick began. “It has helped in ways that may not be so obvious [such as] the comfort and familiarity that a carton of chocolate milk or cup of applesauce can provide goes beyond nutrition. These meals can even help bring a sense of normalcy to this otherwise unprecedented situation. The outpouring of volunteer support from our own district staff and beyond has just validated my belief that we are so fortunate to work and live in a community that cares for one another and treats everybody like family.”
Reilly added that it is their plan to continue providing this twice per week pick up throughout this time of school closure. “It is our goal that no child goes hungry during this time,” she said. “We are planning to apply for several grants and to have a fund-raising campaign in order to continue to fund our effort.”