Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sebago Lake Roatary Club works to end hunger in Southern Maine - By Elizabeth Richards

The Sebago Lake Rotary Club has been working hard to combat hunger in the communities it serves. Through two recent events, the club has made a huge impact, contributing close to $2,000 to the Community Coin Challenge and packaging 31,272 meals to be distributed to food pantries throughout  Southern Maine.


The club’s Feet for Food Walk was held at Windham Middle School on Sunday, September 21st. “The walk was initially created so that we could have a greater impact on the Community Coin Challenge,” said club secretary Cyndy Bell. Though participation wasn’t as high as the club had hoped due to conflicts with other events and rainy weather, about 40 people showed up to walk and others drove through to donate even though they weren’t able to stay and walk. The club was able to double the donation they have given to the Community Coin Challenge in past years.

The Feet for Food Walk will be an annual event, Bell said. “We’re hoping for it to be bigger and better next year,” she said. They would like local businesses to create teams, and because it’s a short one mile walk, anyone can participate, especially children, she said. “I think once the word gets out what a great cause it is, the community will rally,” she added.

Some of the proceeds of the walk also went to support a food packaging event that the Sebago Lake Rotary Club held at the Maine Mall on Saturday, September 27th. Working with End Hunger NE, the northeast division of Outreach, Inc., the club set out to package 20,000 macaroni and cheese meals to be distributed through Southern Maine food pantries. The club initially raised $2,500 for this event, and was given a matching grant from Modern Woodmen of Windham to get to the $5,000 needed to package 20,000 meals.

On the day of the event, Matthew Martin, Regional Manager, Outreach, Inc. told the group of 60 volunteers, which included Rotarians from the Sebago Lake club and other area clubs, plus family and friends, that a challenge had been issued. A group in Buffalo, NY was holding a similar event on the same day, and challenged the Maine group to package 31,000 meals. “Rotarians don’t pass up a challenge too often,” said Bell. 
As a result, the group put together 31,272 meals, breaking the State of Maine record for meals packaged at an event by one bag, which is six meals, said Martin. The previous record holder was a Methodist Church in South Portland, said Martin, and next weekend he’ll be in Ellsworth trying to break the record again. This is the beginning of the fourth school year that Martin has been working with End Hunger NE and this month was the second biggest ever in terms of meals packaged, primarily because of the push the Rotary club made last weekend.

End Hunger NE has packaged almost 300,000 meals in Maine, which is important because of the level of food insecurity in the state, particularly among children. In the 117 counties throughout the Northeast that he has worked in, Martin said that only 16 have 25 percent or more hunger among children. Six of those are in Maine. “That is the drive to get into Maine more often, and with bigger events, because the need is so great,” he said.

Ending hunger has been a big focus for the club this month, and will continue to be an area that the club concentrates on, said Bell. One in four children in Maine are food insecure, Bell said, and that is something that can’t be allowed to happen. “It’s something that’s always on our minds,” she added. “We’re always looking for ways that we can impact the community in a very positive way.”  Last year the club did a smaller packaging event of 8,000 meals. The grant from Modern Woodmen and the extra money raised at Feet for Food allowed them to have a much larger impact this year, said Bell.

The additional meals packaged for the challenge cost the club $2,800. Other rotary clubs in the district offered assistance, and the club is still accepting donations to offset the additional costs. Donations can be sent to the Sebago Lake Rotary Club Charitable Fund, PO Box 1941, Windham, ME  04062 or made online at

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