FARMINGTON — A food pantry for families with children in RSU 9 schools has been started and is offered once a month at W.G. Mallett School.

For a second month, a pallet of food was delivered to the school Wednesday by the Good Shepherd Food Bank from Auburn. The food was sorted and packed by volunteers to distribute to those who came, Katie Hallman, school nurse and organizer, said. 

There are no income guidelines and it is open to families in all RSU schools whether New Sharon or Wilton, she said.

The food pantry is expected to continue throughout the summer on the third Wednesday of the month from 3:20 to 4:20 p.m., she said. The pantry will take place along with a free summer lunch program at the school and a lunch feeding site at Bjorn Park.

A free produce giveaway, available for anyone in the community, was also planned for Wednesday but Good Shepherd did not have the quantity of produce to supply Mallett or the Strong school this time, she said. Last month, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes were available.

Hallman appealed to Good Shepherd for the backpack program for children at the school but was too late to get in, she said. 

They called back. They wanted to expand their school based food banks and have more in the rural areas, she said. They realized they did not have any in Franklin County and were ready to provide for Mallett and the Strong Elementary School.

The Good Shepherd Food Bank received an $8,000 grant from Disney, she said. With their buying power, that amount can multiply, she said.

For every $1 given, the Good Shepherd Food Bank can provide four meals, according to their website. About 200,000 Mainers including about one of every four children struggle with hunger.

It’s about what children have to eat at home especially on weekends when school is not in session, Leslie Thistle, one of the volunteers, said. Lisa Judkins also volunteers to sort and pack the food when it arrives.

Hallman was moved to action when a young student came to her in tears because he was hungry and didn’t like the meal provided by the lunch program that day, she said.

Hallman suggested he wait till he got home to eat. The youngster responded, “but you don’t understand there’s nothing to eat at home,” she said.

Food items are also kept in the school office to help in these situations, she said. Sometimes kids will express more than parents do.

A variety of food items including small packaged items for snacks and cartons of non-refrigerated milk top the boxes. The items chosen by Good Shepherd but Hallman hopes to order more items as she learns what is wanted and needed.

Any leftover items are kept at the school but any leftover fresh produce is given to the Care and Share Food Closet in Farmington, she said.

For more information contact Hallman at Mallett School at 778-3529.

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