Friday, October 2, 2020

The Katahdin Program seeks monetary donations for their ‘Food for Thought’ initiative

By Lorraine Glowczak

Almost 80 percent of the student population
at The Katahdin Program qualifies for free
or reduced lunch. This alternative high school,
which is part of RSU14 and includes therapeutic
and adventure-based education as its core
curriculum, seeks to meet the primary needs
of their students who face food insecurity by
offering a 'Food for Thought' program.

According to the American Youth Policy Forum, about 50 million people across the nation are currently experiencing food insecurity and most of those individuals are families with children. The experience of reduced availability to healthy foods or the lack of food altogether does not escape many families right here in Windham and Raymond.

“Almost 80 percent of our student population qualifies and is on a free or reduced lunch program,” said Craig Haims, Director of The Katahdin Program. “Due to the recent health crisis, it has become more challenging for our students to have access to healthy foods. As a result, the staff here is working to fill that void with the ‘Katahdin Food for Thought’ program.”

The Katahdin Program is an alternative learning school that focuses on integrated, relevant learning and restorative practices as a part of its educational approach. Katahdin currently serves 22 students from grades 10 through 12 and, although the school is located at the Windham High School (WHS), The Katahdin Program is unique in its approach to meeting the needs of its student population.

“As an alternative school, it is important for Katahdin to do things differently to engage learners who have demonstrated less interest in traditional approaches,” Haims said. “To illustrate that point, Katahdin has its own unique schedule, separate from the WHS schedule, that provides for integrated learning blocks, service learning, and dedicated time for vocational and career exploration. The alternative schedule means that Katahdin, while on the WHS campus, has the spirit of an independent program.” 

This is one reason why Katahdin has developed its own supplemental food initiative.

“The Katahdin staff wants to make food accessibility as easy as possible to our students who already face significant challenges,” Haims said. “We want to be able to supply our student’s families with important staples such as bread, eggs, fresh produce and canned goods.”

It has long been known that students who grow up with food insecurity often lag behind their food-secure peers in terms of cognitive, emotional, and physical development. 

“We all have primary and secondary needs,” said Haims. “The primary need of being well fed will always exceed secondary needs of learning and cognitive growth. If we can provide the basic need of healthy food, then our educators can help students succeed academically and behaviorally.”

In his announcement last week asking the community for assistance, Haims stated students will self-select food items and take them home on a weekly basis and, in some instances, a social worker will select food for students to ensure everyone in need obtains the important nutrition they need.

“In order to make the ‘Katahdin Food for Thought’ program a reality, we seek monetary donations
sufficient to fund it for the current school year,” Haims wrote in the press release. “One hundred percent of the funds will go directly into providing weekly food staples for food insecure students who attend The Katahdin Program.”

Within 48 hours of publishing the press release on social media, Haims’ call for action was adhered.

“I am so very pleased at the quick response for my request,” Haims said. “I am grateful to this community that comes together to serve others.”

In addition to community individual, business, and nonprofit responses, the Windham Food Pantry is making significant weekly donations as well.

“I am very thankful for the Windham Food Pantry’s partnership with us,” Haims said. “Their assistance in providing weekly food staples to us is an incredible addition to what we are trying to do for our students. We couldn’t do this without them or the help of our community. The staff and I are so very thankful.”

To help The Katahdin Program continue with their ‘Food for Thought’ initiative, please make a monetary donation and send it to: RSU14, 228 Windham Center Road, Windham, ME 04062, Attn: Stacey Webster. Checks should be made out to RSU14 and write ‘Katahdin Food for Thought Program’ on the memo line.

For more information, contact Craig Haims at 207-899-8311.<

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