Showing posts with label food insecurity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food insecurity. Show all posts

Friday, April 19, 2024

Late-season Polar Dip raises $5K for Sebago Lakes Chamber's 'Feed the Need' Program

By Masha Yurkevich

About three months behind schedule, Polar Dip participants of the annual Polar Dip rushed into 38-degree water at Raymond Beach, all for a great cause.

Seven participants take the plunge during the annual Sebago
Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce's Polar Dip at
Raymond Beach on Saturday, April 13. Funds raised
benefit 'Feed the Need,' a program that supports food
pantries in the Lakes Region.
Sponsored by Maine State Credit Union, the event is typically held in February at Raymond Beach where a hole is cut in the ice and participants jump into the water from the edge of the hole. But this year the Sebago Lake ice wasn't thick enough for participants to safely hold people in February, so the decision was made to postpone it until April when all the ice was completely melted.

As a result, instead of jumping in, participants would run in from the beach, said Robin Mullins, President and CEO of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.

The Polar Dip previously was around for many years as part of the Sebago Lake Rotary's Ice Fishing Derby. The Maine Children's Cancer Network was the benefactor of the Polar Dip for many years. The chamber took over the Polar Dip portion in 2021.

“In 2020, I was approached by my fellow Sebago Lake Rotarian, George Bartlett,” says Mullins. “He was a huge proponent of the ‘dip’ and wanted to bring it back as part of the 2021 Ice Fishing Derby, and he wanted to know if I would help. I immediately said I would and asked if the proceeds could benefit the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Charitable Trust, or what we call ’Feed the Need.’ Food insecurity is a concern in the region and the ‘trust’ was started in 2016 to address that need.”

February 2021 was the first time the chamber hosted the Polar Dip as part of the Ice Fishing Derby. Mullins said it was a great opportunity during the pandemic to plan a fun, outdoor activity in partnership with the Sebago Lake Rotary Club while helping to alleviate hunger in the Sebago Lake Region.

“Participants of the Polar Dip get pledges,” says Mullins. “And 100 percent goes directly to Feed the Need. We partner with the town of Raymond and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department. They provide assistance in traffic control, onsite emergency personnel, and divers in wetsuits who stay in the water to ensure participant safety.

Participants of the Polar Dip can be any age, young or old and everyone in between, who wants to brave the cold and raise money to help alleviate food insecurity.

“We did have several teams who were signed up in February who could not make it on April 13,” says Mullins. “We have learned the start of April vacation is not the best time for the Polar Dip.”

So, while participant numbers were down slightly this year, Mullins decided at 7 p.m. on Friday night, just 16 hours before the event, that she herself, for the first time, would take the plunge if she could get her family and friends to donate $250 on her behalf.

“Not only did I meet the $250 goal,” says Mullins, “but thanks to my Lakes Region BNI group, the Sebago Lake Rotary, members of the chamber board and a few of my fellow Windham High School 1986 graduates, I crushed it, bringing in an amazing $1,450.”

Because of the lack of ice in April, instead of jumping in, participants would run in from the beach.

The event brought in just over $5,000 from the eight participants, which included Mullins, two people from the Town of Standish, Dr. Mark Wasowski of Windham Chiropractic, a representative from Gorham Savings Bank, two representatives from Maine State Credit Union and a representative from Camp Skylemar.

Mullins said the $5,000 raised will be added to the $13,000 that has been raised over the last year and checks will be going out soon to the 12 food pantries in the Lakes Region including those in the towns of Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham.

“A huge thank you to our participants, our volunteers and sponsors from Maine State Credit Union, Raymond Fire and Rescue, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department, and Richie Vraux and Jonathan Priest from the chamber board,” Mullins said.

Pledges and donations can still be made. Please visit the chamber website at for more details.

“Sadly, we lost our great community partner George Bartlett last year,” said Mullins. “In his honor, we will be renaming the dip to the George Bartlett Memorial Sebago Lake Polar Dip. He loved the Polar Dip and poured his heart and soul into it.”

The date for next year’s Polar Dip is set for Sunday, Feb. 16, 2025, at Tassel Top Beach in Raymond. <

Friday, December 15, 2023

Backpack program tackles food insecurity in community

By Ed Pierce

The lyrics of an old Christian hymn proclaim simply “we rise by lifting others” and that’s precisely what the Windham/Raymond Backpack Program strives to do.

Volunteers gathered in the Windham Middle School 
cafeteria on Tuesday, Dec. 12 after packing student 
backpacks with food for them over the Christmas
break from school. The program is seeking donations
to help RSU 14 children overcome food insecurity
and go on to success in their lives.
The initiative was launched during the 2011-2012 school year to assist school children in RSU 14 to overcome food insecurity so they can grow up healthy, do their best work in school, and become successful adults. With Maine passing the “School Meals For All” legislation in 2021, all students across the state are given access to school meals, but some struggling families in the community still face the daunting challenge of feeding children on weekends and over vacations when school is not in session.

This is where the Windham/Raymond Backpack Program comes in. It provides food to supplement children in need over weekends and school breaks during the school year. Each “Backpack” contains breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, as well as snacks. The backpacks are discreetly distributed to the students by teachers or staff at each RSU 14 school and are packed every Tuesday by a team of volunteers at Windham Middle School.

Volunteer Marge Govoni of Windham says that research indicates that children who grow up in food insecure households sometimes trail their peers in terms of cognitive, emotional, and physical development and this program is designed to help those students succeed.

“When the program began 12 years ago, it provided meals for approximately 50 students. It has since increased in number to 120 students from both Windham and Raymond schools being served,” Govoni said. “The increase in participation paired with rising food cost has made it more important than ever that we keep this program open and available to as many children as we can.”

In data collected in 2022 by the National Health Interview Study, a direct correlation was shown between household food insecurity and significantly worse general health in American children, including some acute and chronic health problems, and heightened emergency room hospital visits.

The Windham/Raymond Backpack Program only accepts monetary donations to ensure the nutritional items and menu are similarly based and meet the needs of the child.

“In order to continue to serve up to 120 children each weekend during the school year, we need more members of the community to support our program,” Govoni said. “We are reaching out to local businesses asking for additional sponsors to this program. Our biggest and most consistent contributor over the past several years has been Windham Weaponry and their generous staff, who unfortunately recently announced they will be closing down.”

If you are considering donating, Govoni said that donation benchmarks are one bag for one child at $10, and one child for the school year at $300.

“Of course, any amount is helpful, and 100 percent of the donations go toward buying food and supplies with no administrative cost or fees applied,” she said. “Using this program to give students food for the weekend ensures that come Monday morning when they return to school, they will not be hungry and ready to learn. I am passionate about this program and making sure that students have access to food over the weekend and it is run totally on donations and the work of some wonderful and caring volunteers.”

RSU 14 Chef Ryan Roderick said that the Backpack Program is so valuable because it helps to fill the gaps.

“It is not uncommon to think that because school meals are free that these kids should already have everything they need. The unfortunate truth is that even though breakfasts and lunches are available to all students, there are still hundreds of children who leave school on Friday afternoon and have no certainty that they will be fed a complete meal until Monday morning when they return to school,” Roderick said. “If that is the case, you can bet those students are going to be the ones struggling to stay focused, stay awake and to be the best version of themselves when they are in attendance. The backpack program helps those children sustain over the weekend, to feel a sense of comfort and normalcy and to be confident knowing they will not have to feel hungry, tired, or irritable by the time they get back to school. Every child deserves to feel happy and energized and to be given the best possible chance to succeed and the Backpack Program is our way to ensure that chance is given.”

Govoni said that making a donation can help transform the lives of the RSU 14 students whose lives can be made a little easier with a nutritional meal that is not always available to them.

“We cannot make this program work without the help of our very generous businesses, organizations and residents of Windham and Raymond,” she said. “We are very grateful and cannot thank those who have contributed monetary donations or volunteer their time to help make this program successful.”

To make a donation helping ensure that the food insecure children of the Windham and Raymond communities are nourished and well fed, mail a check or money order to: School Nutrition Program, Attn: Ryan Roderick, 228 Windham Center Road Windham, ME 04062 Note: Backpack Program.

Online donations can also be made at - Select “all other student activities,” fill in your information, for a specific school, select “School Nutrition.” For *Payment Description* write “Backpack Program.”

For more details about the Windham/Raymond Backpack Program, call 207-892-1800, Ext. 2012 or send an email to or <

Friday, July 22, 2022

Food pantries playing larger role as local economy tightens

Rising inflation and soaring gasoline prices have resulted in
an increasing number of individuals and families seeking
help from the Raymond Food Pantry and the Windham Food
Pantry. The need is compounded by RSU 14 not being able
to provide a summer lunch program this year. Food pantry
donations are being welcomed and more volunteers are 
sought to staff the facilities. COURTESY PHOTO  
By Andrew Wing

Over the last few years, there is no denying that we as a country have faced some incredible economic challenges. And in 2022, we are faced with another hardship, catapulted inflation resulting from soaring gas and food prices that are unlike anything our country has seen in decades. Many families in the towns of Windham and Raymond are experiencing trouble just putting food on the table for their children.

For the past couple of years, the RSU 14 Summer Food Service Program has been an outlet for many parents in alleviating some of the hunger children face because they did not have enough food when school was out for the school year. This was a great program that made a huge difference in our community, but unfortunately this summer there has been no RSU 14 Summer Food Service program.

According to Jeanne Reilly, RSU 14 Director of School Nutrition, there are a lot of reasons for this ranging from COVID-19 waivers that were set to expire to not having enough time to put a plan in place for summer meals, but she said a key reason was one that almost every business has been experiencing as of late, and that was not having enough staff to operate a summer meals program.

Despite not having the RSU 14 Summer Food Service program, Reilly said she is hopeful that the program will be back next year to deliver food to the hungry children in need in Windham and Raymond.

There are still a number of resources available to area families in need, the biggest one being town food pantries in both Windham and Raymond.

The Windham Food Pantry’s hours of operation are by appointment from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, while Raymond’s Food Pantry is open from 4 to 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of every month.

As for donations to the pantries, this year has already been an incredible year following the “Feed the Need” initiative which raised more than $25,000 for distribution to the 11 food pantries in eight Lakes Region towns including Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Sebago, Standish, Raymond and Windham.

One of the big players in the “Feed the Need” initiative is Robin Mullins, the Executive Director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. Mullins has served as the chamber’s executive director for over two years now, and she works closely with our town’s food pantries.

She said that she believes that this summer’s rampant inflation and high gas prices are making the need for food larger than in past years.

"Starting with the pandemic, the need for food has been there,” said Mullins. “But now with inflation and high gas prices, I believe the need is greater than ever.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices across America are now 10 percent higher than in 2021 and that rapid increase is driving many who are food-insecure to visit food banks for help.

Another person who has witnessed a growing rise in food insecurity first-hand is Gary Bibeau of the Raymond Food Pantry.

Bibeau, the volunteer director of the Raymond Food Pantry, was honored with the 2021 Spirit of America award for his above-and- beyond dedication to the food pantry.He has been in charge of the facility since February 2021 and he says he’s has definitely noticed an uptick in the need for food this year because of rising inflation and higher gasoline prices.

“Yes, the rising inflation and soaring gas prices have had an impact,” said Bibeau. “I see more and more new people coming into the food pantry by the day.”

Bibeau suggests that any families in need of food for themselves and their children should simply come to the Raymond Food Pantry to get food provided they are Raymond residents and meet the state’s income levels.

He said that the biggest necessity at the food pantry currently is the need for additional volunteers to help, so if you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering, do not hesitate to reach out and call the Raymond Food Pantry at 207-655-4334.

The Windham Food Pantry, managed by Collette Gagnon, is also eager to receive more donations and volunteers, so if you interested in either, call them at 207-892-1931. <

Friday, January 21, 2022

Teacher's creative lessons on food insecurity leads to agriculture award

Stacey Sanborn, right, a fourth-grade teacher at Manchester
School, was honored with awarded the Maine Agriculture In
The Classroom Teacher of the Year Award for 2022 earlier 
this month  for her creative gardening program. Manchester
School Principal Danielle Donnini presents Sanborn with
the official MAITC plaque for winning the award.
By Lorraine Glowczak

Stacey Sanborn, a fourth-grade teacher at Manchester School in Windham, has had a lifelong passion for gardening especially as it alleviates food insecurity. She’s passed that love on to her students and for her innovative and creative approach, Sanborn has been awarded the Maine Agriculture In The Classroom Teacher of the Year (MAITC) Award for 2022. 

The MAITC organization singled out Sanborn as a teacher who incorporates agricultural education in the classroom while at the same time, aligning that subject with core curriculum standards in science, math, social studies, and art. But perhaps just as importantly, Sanborn also introduces the importance of food insecurity and how it affects others’ lives.

This is not the first award Sanborn has received in terms of agriculture and how it can help others who are less fortunate.

“It was while I was in high school and a direct result of my work with a project, the 4-H Hunger Garden that I started, is where my interest in food insecurity began,” Sanborn said.

Her project was recognized for its contribution to the community, and she won her first award, the “America’s Future Award” presented by WCSH Channel 6. She said that this experience made a big impact upon her and became a driving force in her adult life and as a teacher.

“I continue to believe that everyone should have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. This belief has stayed with me during my years teaching at Manchester School and co-coordinating the school gardens,” she said.

The agriculture program has shifted and changed throughout the 18 years since Sanborn began teaching at Manchester School.

“Flower gardening is where I started initially,” she said. “The students and I would make arrangements and deliver them to new staff members. I began to see the educational benefits and realized there was more opportunity for me and the students if we expanded the program.”

In addition to the 12 raised beds for vegetable gardens and a hoop house with three raised beds, today the Manchester School campus is also host to six apple trees, three pear trees, and two varieties of grapevines.

Sanborn said incorporating gardening as part of the curriculum is important because Maine is a farming and aquaculture state, and students get to experience how much we are all a part of something bigger and how life is interrelated.

“Teaching students about agriculture helps them to develop the understanding of where our food comes from,” she said. “Students can see the importance of protecting a long Maine tradition of farming. It gets them out of the classroom and into the outdoors where the students are motivated learners with plenty of opportunity for fun and hands-on experiences.”

Her students are involved in all parts of the gardening process – from seed to harvest – and as they do so, they learn the traditional “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” Ways in which the conventional curriculum is a part of the gardening program include activities such as composting and soil experiments, pollination, keeping detailed records, data collection, and analysis to name just a few. Sanborn also points out that the social studies curriculum plays a strong role in Manchester School’s agriculture program.

“Gardening offers the guiding principles of being part of a community and being an active problem solver,” she said. “Doing something for others – even if it is something small – can have a big impact.”

Some of what the students grow, they get to sample, making some of their favorite recipes such as carrot muffins and “Amazing Carrot Soup.” What they can’t use in the cafeteria, they give to the RSU 14 nutrition program and the Windham Food Pantry. But the social responsibility the students learn in Sanborn’s class doesn’t end there.

“A former student-gardener who lived with food insecurity started their own garden at home and were so successful they were able to share produce with other families in need,” Sanborn said.

It appears the lessons learned have continued to make an impact on two former Sanborn students, who are now in the fifth grade.

Jaxon Dorr said that he enjoyed learning about gardening outside and not having to be in the classroom all day.

“My favorite part about Ms. Sanborn’s class is learning how to plant crops,” he said.

Jakobi Hougaz-McCormick agreed with Dorr saying “I really liked trying to guess the temperature of the hoop house, but I really enjoyed giving food to the school and others who needed it.”

Sanborn says she feels very honored to be a part of this program and is grateful for the recognition from MAITC, however, she believes this is not her award alone.

“I must recognize a former colleague, Master gardener, and a great mentor Pam Lenz,” Sanborn said. “She has put so much effort into this program and is a major part of its success. Pam has helped me to achieve everything I’ve done, and it is a true partnership. She was instrumental in keeping the program going during the early days of the pandemic when schools were not meeting in person. She continued by starting seedlings, planting them in the garden, and creating gardening videos that were used as part of the remote learning experience. Pam is just as an important part of this award and I couldn’t have done it without her.”

Sanborn received her undergraduate from the University of New Hampshire and obtained a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern Maine. She has been a teacher for a total of 23 years.

She lives in Standish with her husband, David, and has two adult sons, Nicholas and Colby, and is part of a large extended family. When she is not busy teaching and gardening, Sanborn can be found exploring Maine lighthouses and lakes, camping, and trying out her new hobby, golfing. <

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.<

Friday, July 10, 2020

Enthusiastic response greets ‘Operation Summer Snacks’ in Windham

The annual “Operation Summer Snacks,” an initiative of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Windham, collects food for children in need who receive bags of food from the “Backpackers” program during the school year but, in many cases, do not have the snacks during the summer.

It is an initiative that hits home for recipients, and this year, it’s starting there, too, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My family is running it out of our house this summer,” said Jill Russell-Morey, a parish catechetical leader who helped create the initiative in 2016. “We weren’t sure how we were going to be able to swing it with the pandemic situation.” where there is a will, there is a way, and “Operation Summer Snacks” has never been a program to shy away from long odds. In just a few years, an idea of finding a way to help local families in need during the summer months turned into an initiative supported by parishioners and community members that totaled more than 2,500 individual snack items and 226 bags of snacks in 2019.

Through the program, each child receives various individual-sized snacks like raisins, crackers, fruit cups, granola bars, and other items.

This year, despite the many challenges, the initiative is off to its best start ever.

“I’ve had a bunch of people contact me to learn where to send donations. Between checks, cash, Venmo donations, as well as stuff being dropped at our house, my daughters and I delivered 1,616 snacks to the Windham Pantry last week alone!” said Russell-Morey. “That next day I received another $210 in checks from parishioners in the mail! It’s been incredible!”

Even with the pandemic, the response to the program has been astounding.

“It’s amazing. One generous lady had a large box of snacks sent directly to my house from Sam’s Club,” Russell-Morey said.

“Operation Summer Snacks” will continue buying and donating through the beginning of August.“We work with the Windham Food Pantry and they really need our help, especially this summer,” Russell-Morey said. “One big change is that the pantry has requested that we not break the original packaging up this year and bag everything ourselves. They want all original packages which allows for less handling of the packages and easier storage.”

Those who can assist are invited to contact Russell-Morey directly at

“The community we live in is amazing and the parishioners and supporters always help when needed,” she said. “The Holy Spirit continues to touch and work through people which provides great hope during these difficult times.” <

Friday, July 3, 2020

FOOD4Vets program has first distribution in Windham

David Horne, American Legion Field-Allen Post 148
Americanism Officer, places a box of food into a
waiting vehicle during the FOOD4Vets distribution on June 17
at the WIndham Veterans Center.
During the FOOD4Vets event on June 17 in Windham, a team of local American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 members assembled to work in collaboration with VA Outreach personnel from Lewiston and Sanford and the 222cares non-profit veterans’ organization to provide boxes of food for needy area veterans.

About 35 boxes were distributed in Windham for those who registered for the program. 

Each box of food is sufficient to support two individuals for seven to 10 days.

For a first-time offering in Windham, Bob Jones, president and organizer of the 222cares non-profit, said he felt that the project was successful. 

He said that based on needs, there could be a follow-on delivery of food. 

The key, he said, is to have local veterans who may be food insecure to register on the website,  

VA outreach personnel also were available in their mobile office truck to sign up veterans for other programs and benefits that veterans are entitled to receive.

For additional information or assistance in registration, please contact Dave Tanguay at 207-892-1306 or by email at

Friday, June 26, 2020

Raymond will continue to offer free food to students, families during summer months

By Lorraine Glowczak

Although recent changes to the USDA’s eligibility requirements helped solve RSU14’s challenge in providing summer meals for students who are experiencing food insecurity, the Raymond community is still moving forward with their initiative to provide grocery item for students and their families this summer, no questions asked.

Until the waiver of federal eligibility requirements were extended about two weeks ago, not one of the RSU14 school sites were eligible to provide free meals for all students, since they do not meet the benchmark of over 50 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced meals.

Raymond Community Community Organizers prepare bags of
non-perishable and fresh food items to be given out Tuesdays
from 1 to 3:30 p.m. (until further notice) at Jordan-Small
“As soon as we discovered students in Raymond would not have access to food this summer, I knew we had to do something,” said Teresa Sadak, one of the organizers of the initiative and a Raymond Town Select Board Member. “I was determined that we would find the funds and figure it out.”

Although Windham and Raymond students will have the opportunity to pick up nutritious meals four days a week  – the Raymond Food Committee organizers decided to move forward with their original plan and provide weekly grocery items for all Raymond families with children in order to fill in the gap of making sure adults have access to food too.

The initial plan was to hand out food every Tuesday from 1 to 3:30 pm (and will do so until further notice), but with the recent development with the RSU, Raymond is working to figure out the best way to proceed with providing non-perishable and fresh food items at Jordan Small Middle School’s cafeteria, located at 423 Webbs Mills Road. Either way, grocery items will continue to be distributed through-out the summer months until the start of the school year next fall. Until a set date and time has been established it is encouraged to email the organizers at on a weekly basis.

“The goal is to reach as many families as possible,” said Raymond Community Communications Coordinator, Kaela Gonzalez. “We want to make sure all of our families are fed so we are trying to find the best time to accommodate people’s schedules. It is also important to note this program is confidential and open to any family that needs help with food.\ No paperwork needed - just show up and we will hand you a bag of food.”

The types of food to be offered varies from week to week but examples include kid friendly foods such as: granola bars, goldfish and fruit snacks, cereal, fresh fruits and veggies, pasta and sauce, peanut butter, crackers, English muffins and much more.

“For the first couple of weeks, we have planned to serve 35 families,” Sadak said. “It will be on a first come/first serve basis, but we are determined to not let any child or family go hungry and if we discover we need to provide for more families - we will find a way to serve everyone.”

One solution the committee, which consists of Sadak and Gonzalez, Rep. Jess Fay and Deputy Chief of Emergency Services and Health Officer, Cathy Gosselin and other volunteers, is requesting feedback from families to help the committee plan and prepare for each week.

“If people could email us at to let us know the following questions, that would be very helpful,” Gosselin said.

Those questions are: Do you want to receive food this summer? What is the best time for you to pick up- afternoon or evening? Do you need the food dropped off at your home? How many in your family?

Once the committee has received feedback from the community, they will decide whether it makes the most sense to hand out additional food during the RSU pick up times or also offer evening hours for families that are not able to pick up food during the day.

Due to recent circumstances, many families have met with some financial challenges.

“Some folks have not been able to access unemployment benefits as a result of recent layoffs due to COVID-19,” Rep. Fay said. “As a result, it has affected some families’ ability to feed their children, pay the mortgage and pay other bills. I’m concerned about how they can feed their family, and this is a great solution.”

If you want to support this program, please visit or the Town of Raymond’s Facebook page, for more information.

There are heroes everywhere and they certainly exist in Raymond.

“This is typical of the Raymond community – coming together and supporting one another in times of need,” Raymond Town Manager, Don Willard said. <

Friday, June 12, 2020

RSU14 faces challenges in addressing student summer food insecurity

Jeanne Reilly, left, the Director of School Nutrition for RSU14
and David Boger, Windham Middle School kitchen manager,
prepare to give out food to families as part of the district's
last distribution of the school year for its backpack program
at Windham Middle School on June 9.
By Elizabeth Richards

RSU14 is in a tight spot when it comes to providing summer meals for students who are experiencing food insecurity. 

None of the school sites are eligible to provide free meals for all students, since they do not meet the benchmark of over 50 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced meals.

Since schools closed in March for on-site instruction, the district has been operating as an emergency food pantry through their backpack program said Jeanne Reilly, Director of School Nutrition for RSU14.  Initially, there was a lot of food they needed to be put to use, since school had closed so abruptly because of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“At first, they were fruits and vegetables that we had to either send home or throw away,” Reilly said. time went on, she said, funds from the backpack program were used to continue sending families home with a supply of groceries that included produce, milk, cheese and yogurt, as well as some of the traditional shelf stable foods typically provided by the backpack program.

Summer meals, however, pose a considerable challenge, she said.  Dundee Park, which has been a traditional summer meal site in years past, was not a viable option this year, said Reilly.

The district looked for other places, but no locations in Windham or Raymond qualified. 

“Right now, we just don’t have an area where we could feed all families for free,” Reilly said.

Although they can’t provide free meals through a designated site this year, the district is still committed to helping find solutions to food insecurity for students.

An end-of-school year update for families lists open meal sites in other school districts, including Westbrook, MSAD15, and the Lakes Region Schools.

According to Reilly, at an open meal site, children from anywhere can go to get a meal. 

She said that this summer the open meal sites will provide both a lunch and a breakfast to go for families, but the process is a bit different because of COVID-19 protocols and restrictions.

“It used to be that students had to be present and meals had to be consumed on site,” Reilly said. “This year, the parents have to be there to pick up and the meals cannot be consumed on site.”

As additional resources, Reilly said that food pantries in both Windham and Raymond will operate over the summer for families as well.

Windham residents can call the RSU14 food pantry for an appointment at 892-1931 and get food once per week, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Raymond will offer a Summer Backpack Food Program at Jordan Small Middle School on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. where families can pick up a supply of shelf stable food, and possibly some produce.

The program also is working with St. Joseph’s College to potentially get produce from their gardens, Reilly said.

Families should also be made aware of the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefit, Reilly said, which provides additional grocery funds to families who qualify for free and reduced meal prices.

If they previously may have qualified or think they may qualify now as a result of a job loss or an employee furlough, families should fill out the free/reduced meal application, she said.

This application can be filled out and submitted online, or families can contact Reilly by sending an email to for assistance. 

Although the P-EBT benefit is scheduled to expire at the end of June, there is legislation currently in front of the Maine Senate that could extend this through the summer when schools are closed, Reilly said.

Districts like RSU14 are in an awkward position, with not enough families eligible for free and reduced meals to qualify for programs that can help those in need, Reilly said.

But with some families in the area still in need of help, the school district has been searching for ways to be of assistance. 

“We’re left struggling with how to provide for those families in the best way possible,” she said.

Food insecurity has often been cited as one of the most important public health problems currently facing children in the United States. Numerous studies and previous surveys conducted from 2013-to 2019 reveal that food insecurity has negative impacts on the health of children.
In data collected in 2016 by the National Health Interview Study, there is a direct correlation between household food insecurity and significantly worse general health in children, including some acute and chronic health problems, and heightened emergency room hospital visits.

The study found that compared to rates in homes that are not food insecure, children in food-insecure households had rates of lifetime asthma diagnosis and depressive symptoms that were 19.1 percent and 27.9 percent higher, with rates of foregone medical care that were 179.8 percent higher, and rates of emergency department use that were 25.9 percent higher.

The organization No Kid Hungry estimates that because of the COVID-19 crisis and pandemic this year, as many as one in four children in the United States could face food insecurity issues.

In April, a national survey of mothers with young children commissioned by The Hamilton Project reported that the pandemic was responsible for significant food insecurity in America.

Survey results showed that 17.4 percent of mothers with children ages 12 and under reported that since the pandemic started, “the children in my household were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.”

Of those mothers, 3.4 percent reported that it was often the case that their children were not eating enough due to a lack of resources since the coronavirus pandemic began.

That same survey revealed that food insecurity in households in America with children under the age of 18 has increased about 130 percent from 2018 to 2020. <

Friday, June 5, 2020

Free Monday Meal program is still going strong, providing food to local pantries

Olley Klein of Gray, left, said thathe has been coming
to the Monday Meal program since its inception and
finds its fellowship is just as important as the
food the program serves
By Lorraine Glowczak

The concept of a free Monday meal officially began by members of the Windham Hill United Church of Christ (UCC) in 1998.
The intent was to provide free nutritious meals for those who experienced food insecurity on Monday evenings. Hoping to receive help from other area churches, Windham Hill UCC reached out to other congregations to see if there would be an interest in joining their efforts on a needed service to the community.
It was not long after the request was made that more than five area churches were soon on board, offering weekly free meals – and as such, the Food and Fellowship, Inc. a non-profit ecumenical organization was established.
The organization has sponsored the free Monday Meal program in the Lakes Region since 1999, serving between 50 to 70 guests every Monday evening.
Although the program has not been able to provide free in person Monday Meals for over two months due to the pandemic, Food and Fellowship, Inc. is still going strong.
“We are still here, although we can’t get together in person right now,” said Dan Wheeler of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church and President of Food and Fellowship, Inc. “We thought it was important to continue giving food for those in need, so we have opted to donate towards area food pantries.”
The organization has recently donated at total of $1,750 to food pantries of surrounding towns that have contributed financially or otherwise to Food and Fellowship, Inc. “We have given $250 to Standish Food Pantry, $250 to the Raymond Food Pantry and $1,250 to the Windham Food Pantry,” Wheeler said. with most organizations and individuals, the pandemic has created an opportunity to think outside the box, being innovative to meet missions and goals.
“What we realized when the social distancing began is that we did not have a system in place in circumstances such as these to let people know what we were doing,” said Wheeler. “Although we do have a Facebook page and a website to provide that information, there are some people we serve who either do not have access to a computer or internet or simply do not use social media as a form of staying connected. This is where we have decided to develop a phone and email list so we can update individuals who join Monday Meals. We plan to do this going forward.”
But just as the food is an important part of the Monday Meal Program’s mission, providing a source of social interaction plays a very important role, too.
In a previous interview for an article last summer highlighting the 20th anniversary of free Monday Meals, Olley Klein from Gray shared his thoughts about getting together with others on a weekly basis.
“My wife died in 1991 and I have been coming here almost since the beginning,” he said. “Not so much for the food - which I enjoy – but more for the social aspect of it. In fact, I think I spend more time in the churches of Windham than I do at home in Gray.”
Although it is unsafe to gather at this point, the Monday Meal program will be meeting in person when the threat of contracting COVID-19 is diminished and is safe for the guests to gather.
“We will be back to meeting in person someday, hopefully soon,” Wheeler said. “Once schools are in session then it is possible that we will meet again. However, 90 percent of our board members and meal participants are at risk and we must make sure the facilities where the meals take place meet social distancing requirements. Although there is much to consider for the safety of all, we will be back!”
When the program is back in session, the meal sites will continue as normal. September through May, the meal sites are located at: First Monday at North Windham Union Church, second Monday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, third and fourth Mondays at Windham Hill United Church of Christ and on those rare fifth Mondays - at the Standish Congregational Church. During the summer months (June, July and August), the meal sites are: First four Mondays at St. Ann's Episcopal Church and the fifth Monday at the Standish Congregational Church. Meals begin promptly at 5:30 p.m. but guests begin arriving as early as 4:30 p.m. to reserve a spot and enjoy appetizers and fellowship. The meals traditionally end at about 6 p.m.
Funding for this program is donated by area churches. The Town of Windham also donates generously on a yearly basis.
If you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to the Food and Fellowship program, you can do so by sending a check or money order to Food and Fellowship, c/o Mark Stokes, Treasurer,  P.O. Box 911  Windham, ME  04062.
For more information about Monday Meals, contact Wheeler and Food and Fellowship, Inc via email at: Like and follow them on them on Facebook
or check out their website at:

Friday, July 26, 2019

Preschoolers run ‘marathon’ to raise money for RSU14 Backpack Program

Students at Birchwood Day Nursery School
By Lorraine Glowczak

Organizations – whether they are businesses, religious or otherwise, will rise to the call and make sure others in dire circumstances are given a hand when life throws them a curveball. Is this an innate response or is it nurtured by those who teach us well? Or is it both?

The answers are probably best addressed by sociologists, anthropologists and educational psychologists. Whether it is intrinsic or not, all this reporter knows is the three, four and five-year-olds at Birchwood Day Nursery School on River Road in Windham raised over $7,000 at their eighth annual marathon fundraising event which consists of running around a designated track in the school’s front yard on April 23 and 24. The 3-year-olds participated in a dance-a-thon.

The funds raised were donated to the RSU14 Backpack Program. In the process, the students not only learned about service to others, but also learned the importance of personal health and exercise. And they did so with passion and excitement.“We talked about four important aspects to health,” stated Heather Marden, teacher and inspiration of the program. “Eating healthy, drinking water, exercise and getting the right amount of sleep were discussed often and a part of our curriculum study to prepare for the run. The only thing is, they didn’t know they were learning because they were having so much fun.”

Prior to the marathon, the students not only discussed healthy personal living habits but also what it takes to be a part of a healthy community. When asked what he learned the most about participating in the marathon and giving back to others, student Connor McGovern said, “Sometimes when you run, you fall down. When friends fall down, you help them back up so they can keep running.” 

Student Easton McDonnell quickly added, “Sometimes when you fall down, it hurts really bad so you need to get a cold pack so people can feel better.”

If there is one way to encourage children to think about others in need “when they fall”, this certainly was one way to do it as it seemed to leave an impression.

Marden explained that the annual event is filled with excitement as they mark the running path with flags and balloons, not only with the children but former students as well. “When we start putting the flags and balloons up, former students who are now a part of our after-school program, recall their own fond memories of the event. We even have them come to speak to the children about their experiences as part of our curriculum activities and preparations.”

The event included visitors such as Crusher, the mascot from Maine Red Claws and the boys’ basketball team from Saint Joseph’s College. “We also invited Chef Ryan from RSU14,” explained Marden. “He spoke to us a bit about how important the backpack program is and to show us what type of healthy foods go into the backpacks, giving students sample foods to try.”

The marathon also brings out the spectators with the sidelines filled with moms, dads, uncles, aunts, siblings and grandparents, cheering on their favorite three, four and five-year olds as they run, fall and help others get back up.

The following are a few influences, lessons learned and favorite aspects from the four-lap front yard marathon participation:

“Getting a medal by Dr. Rhoads, Principle of Windham Primary School,” Mason Cieslak
“Seeing my dad,” Easton Secord
“Drinking the water,” Aria Celeste
“Eating oranges with my grammy and uncle,” Amelia Wildes
“Running around the preschool looking at the flags and balloons,” Jack Moriarty
“We have to stretch our muscles to warm them up,” Charlee Prokey perhaps the most important aspect from the marathon event is the impression it makes on the parents. “We have parents who thank us for helping the community,” began Connie DiBiase, Birchwood’s Director. “One parent told us how important it was – and how he could identify what it is like not to have enough food as a child – and now he feels like he gets to help other children and families.”

Heather Marden stated that they wanted to target children in the Windham Community. “When deciding what organization to serve, it made sense to us to give to the RSU14 Backpack Program – focusing in on the fact that hunger does exist in our community and taking that as a learning experience on what it takes to live a healthy life.”

The children raised enough money to provide food for over 35 students.

“The Backpack Program couldn't survive without the continued support of businesses and organizations such as Birchwood Day Nursery School,” stated Program Coordinator of the Backpack Program. “They have helped us provide a financial stability in the program. I also hope that these little people will learn to be caring, giving community members thanks to the Nursery School and their parents and caregivers involvement in this fundraiser that they do yearly. I couldn't be more appreciative.”

A special thanks goes to Marden and DiBiase, along with all the Birchwood staff, for their dedication to our youth and teaching as well.

For more information about the Backpack Program, contact Marge Govoni at To make a donation, ensuring that the food insecure children of the Windham and Raymond communities are nourished and well fed, mail check or money order noting which program you are donating too, to the following address: School Nutrition Program, 228 Windham Center Road, Windham,04062.