FARMINGTON — The plight of people in Franklin County who face food insecurity and the efforts undertaken to confront it were the focus of a service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. held Monday at Henderson Memorial Baptist Church.

“The service is offered each year by the churches of the Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry, and focuses each year on a different justice concern in need of our attention, right here in our local community,” the Rev. Susan Crane of Henderson Memorial said as she welcomed about 50 people to the service.

In addition to the nine area food banks which provide food for Greater Franklin County residents in need, efforts are being made to feed schoolchildren through a proposed summer feeding program in Farmington, along with Theresa’s Totes, a ministry which offers food totes to schoolchildren in Wilton.

“Did you know that Maine ranks first in New England in the number of seniors who don’t get enough food to eat?” Crane quoted from a letter from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank in Auburn.

Seventy percent of Maine children are eligible for reduced or free school lunches, Chris Magri of Old South First Congregational Church noted. He then asked what happens when school is closed on snow days or summer vacations.

While Regional School Unit 9 officials are proposing a five-week feeding program for children in summer school at Mallett School this year, members of Old South are working on an idea to also provide summer meals at satellite sites.

The Old South group wants to offer meals, perhaps twice a week, to children at a site on High Street and also defray the $3 cost for each parent’s meal, he said.

“We want to help people in need — right here, right now,” he said.

Research on a program to provide bags of food to cover the needs of schoolchildren over the weekend and school vacations eventually developed into Theresa’s Totes ministry, Crystal McBean of Henderson Memorial and Lory Zamboni of Dryden United Baptist Church said.

They learned that Cushing School in Wilton had the highest number of children receiving free school lunches in Franklin County. The school is also the fifth-highest in Maine, McBean said.

When the school principal said teachers at the elementary school were concerned about children being fed over the weekend, they began filling a few totes for the school office to distribute on Fridays, she said. Totes also are provided to families over summer vacations.

Churches, granges and extensions have pitched in to donate to the cause.

One great supporter of the program has been Richard Bjorn, Zamboni said of her employer.

Bjorn, owner of Kyes Insurance, has quietly helped with many programs, Zamboni said of a challenge for food closet donations sent to Wilton and Farmington homes.

Food closet leaders Kitty McDonald of Wilton, Leiza Hiltz-Scerbo of Farmington and Bob Healy of the Clearwater Ministry in Industry were recognized for donating countless hours of their time.

An offering of $398 delivered during the service will be split between the Care and Share Food Closet and Theresa’s Totes, Crane said.

“Dr. King was best remembered for his preaching on racism, but he also recognized that racism went hand-in-hand with poverty,” Crane said.

“In remembrance of him, let us rise to the challenge before us and do all that we can to make sure the seniors — and the families with little children — all have enough to eat in this great state of Maine,” she said.

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