MADISON — Some mornings toward the end of the month, Doris Lindblom said she can hear her students’ bellies growling from hunger.

“Food stamps are supposed to go for the month, but they don’t last a month,” Lindblom, the food services director for the Madison school district, said Thursday. “After the third week, you see kids coming in hungry. They’ll actually come down and their stomachs are hurting them or they have headaches.”

So Lindblom, along with Madison Junior High School Principal Ryan Arnold and junior high mathematics teacher Al Veneziano, started Central Food Pantry in the junior high cafeteria. Stocked with donations from the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, the pantry opened in May. The food — canned goods of all sorts, cereal, juice and pasta — is strictly for families of children who attend the junior high, but later will include the elementary school and the high school, said Veneziano, who also is chairman of the Madison Board of Selectmen.

Veneziano said Kristie LeBlanc, at Somerset Public Health, helped them write a food grant for the program through the Good Shepherd.

During the summer, the pantry will be open from noon to 2 p.m. every Thursday in a storage room off the school cafeteria.

While word is still getting out about the food pantry, one father and his son came in Thursday to stock up on necessities.


“We’re getting pretty much whatever he wants to give us,” said Robert Savage, who is disabled because of a back injury. “I think it’s real good. It’s going to be a big help to us.”

Savage and his son, Jarek, soon to be a sixth-grader, left with bags of tuna, soup, peanut butter and fruit snacks.

Central Food Pantry joins People Who Care Food Cupboard, which is open 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays at 108 Old Point Ave. and serves the towns of Madison and Anson.

Veneziano said there is no competition with the other food pantry, and in fact, his group, which is open on Thursday, gets fresh fruit, produce and other perishables left over from the Food Cupboard, so everybody eats well.

Arnold said the enrollment at the junior high is about 200 students, meaning that 200 families — many with children in other grades — are eligible for the food every week. He said that with the closing of Madison Paper, the need for food pantries is greater than ever.

“I’m sure it does have an impact,” he said of the mill closure a year ago. “I’m sure there are a few families out there — it has to have had an effect.”


Veneziano said 70 percent of students in School Administrative District 59 are eligible for free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch. The population of Madison is about 4,500, with a property tax rate of about $21 for every $1,000 in property valuation.

“Our goal is to have all of the schools to be able to come here,” he said. “We’ve got to get this one going first.”

Lindblom said the nice part about their program is that there are no income eligibility criteria or forms to fill out. Students can take food home in their backpacks if getting to the pantry on time is a problem for parents. The pantry will be open from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday once classes resume in the fall.

“We’ve also done a little delivery. We’re just trying to get the word out,” Veneziano said. “The mill closing definitely had an impact on the community. It’s going to be different. There were decent salaries there and they’re not there anymore. There’s a population here that we have that probably needs this program.”

So far the food pantry has taken two 650-pound deliveries of food from Good Shepherd. There also was a delivery of 150 pounds of melons, plus romaine lettuce and potatoes.

“Some of the response has been amazing,” Lindblom said. “We’re going to have food tonight. Every person that comes says this is going to help a lot.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


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