Chris Leeman, left, and Linda Myhaver, right, work on tote bags for the RSU Food Pantry on Wednesday, May 17. Every member had a station and a task to make the tote bags sturdy. Submitted photo

FARMINGTON — The RSU 9 Food Pantry, based out of W.G. Mallet School in Farmington, received a donation of roughly 23 handmade tote bags from the Franklin County Extension Homemakers.

1Eleven Extension Homemakers met on Wednesday, May 17, at Bean’s Corner Baptist Church in Jay to help construct 23 tote bags. They were made from sturdy fabric such as drapery, denim,  and twill, that was donated to them from the community.

The tote bags were chosen by the Extension Homemakers to help aid the backpack program the RSU 9 Food Pantry runs, which provides food for kids at Mt. Blue Middle, W.G. Mallett, Cushing, Academy Hill, and Cascade Brook schools on the weekends.

“They’re not really backpacks,” Kristen Wroble, coordinator of the RSU 9 Food Pantry, said. “It’s just a small brown bag with food in it in the backpacks of children who we know might not have access to reliable food on the weekend. We do that every Friday.”

With the new tote bags, Wroble says they will be able to distribute the food to the nurses much easier.

Along with the backpack program, the RSU 9 Food Pantry gives out monthly boxes of food to families who have children enrolled in the RSU 9 school district. Wroble says since we last spoke in January, the program has been holding steady and will continue to run in the summer months.


Mary Kalel lays out fabric on Wednesday, May 17, for the tote bags Extension Homemakers made for RSU 9 Food Pantry. Twenty-three bags in total were made for the pantry’s backpack program. Submitted Photo

Previously, Wroble ran into logistical problems with the totes that were used to distribute food monthly, but has since transitioned into clean, reusable bags that have been donated from the community. The community has also helped with donations to the RSU 9 Food Pantry.

Despite having RSU 9 in the name, the RSU 9 Food Pantry is a separate entity that does not receive funding from the school district, meaning they have to rely on donations and grants to keep the program afloat.

“There’s been a couple people who just send us $20 or $30 bucks once a month and it just really adds up.”

Pick up dates are always on Wednesday, and for the summer they will be on June 20, July 19, and Aug. 16. The backpack program will end, stop just for the summer while school is out, but Wroble says that will give her time to build up the program and get a head start on next year.

Moving into next year, Wroble is currently working on moving the backpack program and the pantry to a new location and working with members of the community to set up a non-profit for the RSU 9 Food Pantry.

“It’s all up in the air right now,” Wroble said.

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