With schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, school districts and youth organizations in central Maine have launched meal programs to ensure children and families are being fed.

For at least the next two weeks, volunteers and staff at the Alfond Youth & Community Center in Waterville will be preparing 1,000 meals per day and distributing them at four locations from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Meals can be picked up at the Alfond Center at 126 North St. in Waterville, Fort Halifax Park at U.S. Route 201 in Winslow, the Fabian Oil Inc. parking lot next to the Fabian Oil gas station at 20 Oak St. in Oakland and the upper athletic lot of Lawrence High School at 9 School St. in Fairfield.

No proof of need or residency is required to receive the meals, according to Crista Lavenson, director of advancement for the Alfond Center.

“We’re not going to check anybody for residency or anything,” Lavenson said Tuesday. “Anybody who needs food can come up and get it.” 

Snacks like granola bars and crackers will be included with the meal.

On Thursdays and Fridays, members of the Alfond Center staff plan to distribute backpacks filled with nonperishables that can feed up to three people over the weekend.

“It’s things like pasta, rice, beans, canned food that can last through the weekend,” Lavenson said.

Lavenson said that the program, which began Tuesday, has been scheduled for two weeks, but the center will extend the program as long as the schools are closed.

Shawn Forkey, the center’s kitchen manager, and Meg Edwards, the assistant kitchen manager, are in charge of the meal program.

Initial funding from the program came last week from an anonymous donor who gave the center $11,000 and from a member of the center’s board of directors who donated $14,000.

The program will require about $25,000 per week. The center is already seeing a positive response from community members wanting to help, according to Lavenson.

“We’re taking donations for the second week of the program and we’ve gotten about $800 today,” Lavenson said.

Lavenson said the program is in need of volunteers. Those interested can call the center at 207-873-0684.

A portion of funding has also come from the Maine Summer Food Service Program, a statewide program that provides meals to children in low-income areas during the summer months.

Maine School Administrative District 49 has also announced its nutrition program will serve free meals to children under 18 and expectant mothers from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, beginning Wednesday.

“Grab and go” breakfast and lunch will be available for pickup at all schools in the district: Albion Elementary, Benton Elementary, Clinton Elementary, Fairfield Primary, Lawrence Junior High School and Lawrence High School.

Superintendent Roberta Hersom said teachers, administrators and the technology department have also been working to provide students with learning resources while the schools are shut down.

“This is an ever-evolving situation and we are trying to react as quickly as possible to changing circumstances,” Hersom said.

“I am proud of our district employees who have worked hard to facilitate this temporary programming — good people, working together to serve our MSAD 49 community.”

Several districts across the state announced over the weekend that schools would close for at least two weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 32 confirmed cases in Maine.


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