Gould students make bags for backpack program

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BETHEL — Students from Gould Academy have made 30 reusable bags that are being donated to the backpack food program at Crescent Park Elementary School.

The program sends food home Fridays with children who otherwise might not have enough to eat on weekends.

Principal Elaine Ferland said the bags are a “nice addition” to an important program.

The Gould students went to Marden’s and picked out fabric and other materials. They sewed the bags by hand, with help from Sara Shifrin, director of the Marlon Family Ideas Center at the academy.

“To better understand the impact of the (backpack) program, students researched food insecurity in Maine and provided interview questions for the (Crescent Park School) teachers who run the program,” Shifrin said.

“The Gould students began to understand the complexity of the issue and became committed to designing bags that were easy to carry or be stuffed in backpacks,” she said.

She said the bags are vibrant, durable, washable and come in sizes that are appropriate for elementary school pupils of all ages.

The project was part of an elective class: Foundation of a Maker.

“They’re beautiful bags,” Ferland said. “They’ve got a nice liner and nice handles students can put over their shoulders. Some (Gould) students came and saw how big the bags needed to be before they made them.”

Ferland said about 30 elementary students use the backpack program. And thanks to a $2,000 donation from the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition, the food pantry at the school is full.

“I went to the Bethel IGA and ordered $2,000 worth of food,” Ferland said. “It was a lot of food — holy cow. The IGA has been fantastic and so supportive. They helped order the food and load it into the trailer to take to the school.”

Ferland said the donation allowed her to buy items in bulk, such as big jars of peanut butter and boxes of cereal, allowing more food to go home with children.

Oxford Federal Credit Union has also donated $500 to the program.

“We are fully stocked,” Ferland said. “The program has definitely grown. We have enough food to last the rest of the year.”

The backpack food program is in its first year. Ferland said it is expected to continue for the 2018-19 school year.

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These bags made by students at Gould Academy were donated to the backpack program at Crescent Park Elementary School in Bethel. The program sends food home with certain students on Fridays. (SAD 44 photo)

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