Kristin Wroble, coordinator of the RSU 9 food pantry, shows some of the food that goes into their boxes as well as their backpack program on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at W.G. Mallet school. Wroble loads a brown paper bag with food and sends it home with a child facing food insecurity. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — In the carefree mind of a child, most would assume they would be fixated on things like games or toys. It is a shocking reality to learn that one in every six children in the state of Maine are concerned over one thing.


It was reported by Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, in the state of Maine, approximately 139,410 people will face food insecurity, and of that number 39,990 are children.

Starting in 2015, Regional School Unit 9’s Food Pantry has been combatting this issue within the school district. Katie Hallman, school nurse and coordinator, spearheaded the program, but is now retiring and leaving the charge to Kristin Wroble.

Since its formation, RSU 9’s food pantry has been able to effectively curb the number of children going hungry in the district. Once a month, participants with children in the district can pick up a box of food primarily donated by the Good Shepard Food Bank. The only criteria they must fulfill in order to get a box is have a child enrolled in the school district.

Recently, the program has expanded the number of participants from 33 families in September of last year to 75 families, which has presented some logistical issues.


“We basically separate all of [the food] and put it into banana boxes,” Wroble said. We have several communities, community programs that come and get them and take them to their families, or we have a lot of families that come and pick them up from the school.

“Our problem now is we don’t have banana boxes, and we have no way to get this food into anything,” she added.

The issues with the banana boxes stem from their availability as Walmart and Hannaford, who were able to donate the boxes previously, are now not allowing it, according to Wroble. The banana boxes are also cumbersome and take up a lot of space, leading to issues with storage as well.

Wroble was able to find a solution in sturdy, collapsible boxes, but a grant request she recently made for 120 boxes valued at $3,600 was denied due to lack of funding, leaving her with the challenge of finding new ways to deliver the food to those who participate in the program.

Volunteers help load and carry boxes to families in RSU 9 with food insecurity. The only stipulation to getting a box is they must have a child enrolled in the district. Submitted Photo

The next pick-up for the food pantry will be on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Wroble encourages people bring their own bags to help with the process of transferring food.

Along with the struggles with their monthly boxes of food, RSU 9’s food pantry also recently ran into trouble with the backpack program.


The program, which sends a bag full of food home with kids who do not have access to food over the weekend, is facing funding issues.

“We looked at our bank account, and we’re like, ‘you know what, we don’t have money to do this backpack program,’” Wroble commented.

In October, Wroble drafted a community letter explaining the backpack program shortfall and sent it out in early November. The response she got was enough to keep the backpack program alive until this June.

“We did get a lot of support and the support that we did get, we definitely have enough money hopefully for the backpack program going into June,” she said.

After June, however, the future is uncertain for the backpack program. According to Wroble, the monthly cost of the backpack program is roughly $400. Also in the letter was a request for personal hygiene products such as toothbrushes and deodorant as well as feminine hygiene products.

Wroble is committed to keeping the program by any means necessary, as the feedback she gets from teachers is a driving force for her.

“A teacher told me, ‘You’d think it was Christmas morning each Friday when one of my student’s looks into his backpack and finds weekend food. He is so thrilled that he will have food for the weekend that he often announces it to the entire class! It makes my week to see his excitement. It’s a long weekend with no food, and luckily thanks to your service he will have access to food again this weekend. Thank you,’” she shared.

To help with donations, to volunteer for more information about the food pantry and the backpack program, Wroble encourages people to reach out to her email at

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