RUMFORD — Rumford Elementary School has been chosen as one of 10 sites in Maine to receive a portion of a $50,000 grant to the Good Shepherd Food-Bank to distribute food to families in need.

The school’s food bank, located in the basement of RES, provides a variety of nonperishable foods for families of the school’s students. In addition, every third Friday from 3 to 4 p.m, fresh fruits and vegetables are available for area families.

Chris Decker, principal of RES, said teachers are always vigilant about the needs of their students. If a youngster and his or her family appear to need food, teachers discreetly put together a package to send home with the child, he said.

RES and neighboring Meroby Elementary School in Mexico have free and reduced lunch rates for about 80 percent of the student population, Decker said.

“We do whatever we can do to help the community,” Decker said. “We see a strong need, particularly during the winter months. Good Shepherd contacted me.”

Any RES parent with food needs may contact the school at 364-8155.

Shannon Coffin, child hunger program manager for the Feeding America grant with the Good Shepherd Food-Bank, said the state has a significant need for food assistance based on the high numbers of families eligible for free and reduced food, as well as unemployment.

“Rumford was high in the list of the child hunger needs assessment,” she said.

Other sites throughout the state include two in Aroostook County, two in Washington County, three Native American reservations and one each in Lewiston and Portland.

She said a pilot program for Feeding America took place at Portland High School during the 2012-13 school year. Morgan Stanley, a financial firm, supports the Feeding America program.

Donna Bucher, a member of the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition which works with the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program, provides instruction on how to prepare healthy and nutritious foods at the third Friday food-distribution times. Last Friday, she had prepared a hot vegetable and pasta soup for all to try.

Community volunteers also help out during that time.

One is Anne Chamberlin, former principal at RES.

“These are still my kids,” she said as she helped Bucher fill a box of fresh fruits and vegetables. “I’m paying it forward. It’s a nice thing to do.”

In addition to food distribution, RES provides free breakfasts for every child and fresh vegetables three times a week in all classes. Some of the other schools in the RSU 10 district also provide similar healthy food programs.

The program began in December and is expected to continue at least through June, Decker said.

A change in the dates for the February and March food distributions will be announced at a later date.

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