Area churches have stepped up to support a critical program that addresses food insecurity in the Hallowell area. For the past couple years, the Hall-Dale Elementary School Food Pantry has provided supplemental food to more than 35 students’ homes on weekends and during school vacations, according to a news release from Cox Memorial United Methodist Church. As the need and the program has grown, the school has run out of space to store the supplies. Now, the school’s food pantry has partnered with four area churches who will collaborate to house and support the school pantry beginning this month. Participating churches include Cox Memorial UMC, St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church and First Baptist Church of Hallowell.

Hall-Dale Elementary School Counselor Amanda Wilcox is pleased to collaborate with these valued partners.

“While this is a critical program for our students, it does take many hours of coordination on the part of Hall-Dale. I loved the idea of community members coming together to dedicate their time and effort to supporting our food pantry. Many hands make for a light load is my new favorite phrase,” said Wilcox, according to the release.

The actual pantry will now be housed at Cox UMC. The pastor, the Rev. Nancy Bischoff, and a number of Cox UMC members, will manage the food ordering from Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, pick up the food and deliver the packaged food to the school twice a month. The other partner churches will participate in packaging the food for distribution to the students and engage in regular fund raising to support the purchase of the food.

During this season when more of household budgets need to go toward heating costs. Bischoff said the timing is perfect to insure the sustainability of this important program. At Hall-Dale Elementary School, 35 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunches with all students being guaranteed breakfast and lunch if desired, according to the release. Because these resources are not available on weekends and during school vacations, the food pantry support is critical to many of these families. Families self select to participate in the School Food Pantry Program.

Each week, the menus and food items are rotated and include nutritious, but also child-friendly options. The cost of the food product is covered totally by donations with a number of local organizations doing fund raising throughout the year to support the program. Donations can be sent to Hall-Dale Elementary School at 26 Garden Lane, Hallowell, ME 04347. Checks should be made payable to: Hall-Dale Elementary School, with a subject line of Food Pantry.

As a school counselor who spends time with many of the students one on one, Wilcox said, “This program is vitally important to our families. We as adults know that our basic human needs of shelter, food and security need to be met before we can be expected to learn math, reading, or science. By working together with these four churches to support our school food pantry we are investing in the future of our community. Our kids are a wise investment for us all,” according to the release.

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