Starting this weekend, Maine School Administrative District 54 will be providing meals to feed children from birth to 18 throughout the weekend, an effort that is supplemented by a backpack and pantry distribution program in Canaan and Norridgewock.

Waterville Public Schools announced Friday a change in their delivery system that will cover meals from Monday through Saturday.

Volunteers with Skowhegan’s and Canaan’s Food Backpack Program spent the afternoon on Thursday handing out 350 paper bag backpacks to families in need. Photo submitted by Chelsey Carrier

“Because there are so many people that have been laid off and a high rate of unemployment, we feel like it’s our civil obligation to take care of these families the best that we can,” Superintendent Brent Colbry said in an interview Thursday.

Colbry said that the meals, which will feed about 4,500 children, are prepared at Mill Stream Elementary School, Skowhegan Area Middle School and Skowhegan Area High School and are dispersed throughout the district on 24 different buses. Each bus has one or two volunteers to help with food distribution at stops.

“We haven’t had any issues yet,” Colbry said. “We’ve only received tremendously positive feedback from families.”

“I am so incredibly proud of our school community and how hard everyone has stepped up,” Colbry said. “We have way more volunteers to ride the buses than we can use. It’s been a really difficult situation, and I’m just so proud.”

Before the district’s schools closed, MSAD 54 officials had developed a plan to provide meals to children in each town in the district at off-school sites, but now use buses with volunteers following regular routes.

At the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, all 2,600 students in all seven schools in MSAD 54 became eligible for free breakfast and free lunch as part of a federal program launched in 2010.

Additionally, volunteers with Skowhegan’s and Canaan’s Food Backpack Program spent the afternoon on Thursday handing out 350 meals to families in need. Chelsey Carrier, a volunteer for Skowhegan’s group, said that community contributions and collaborations with other groups helped pull the program together.

“Pantries and backpack programs in all of Skowhegan schools emptied their stocks and combined them to see how many bags we can make and deliver to families,” Carrier said.

The hand-off of the bags will happen again on April 10, from 8 to 10 a.m. at Skowhegan Area High School, then in Norridgewock at Mill Stream Elementary School from 11 a.m. to noon, and then at Canaan Elementary from 1-2 p.m.

“We’ve been able to combine our efforts to extend throughout the district,” Stephanie Voter, a Canaan Backpack Program volunteer, said.

On a normal basis, Skowhegan’s Food Backpack Program gives about 60 meals a week to students to take home in Skowhegan schools grades K-12. Additionally, a food pantry is available at Somerset Career & Technical Center and at the high school.

When schools closed, Carrier said that she was able to pack and give out 290 bags of food, which contain a week’s worth of shelf-stable food. After combining with Canaan this week, 350 meals were prepared and handed out.

By combining their efforts, the organizations are able to provide students at Mill Stream Elementary with backpacks.

Through a partnership with Good Shepherd Food Bank, the two programs were able to buy food at a discount, Carrier said. The Skowhegan Rotary Club, local businesses and private donations provided the funds for the food, enough to stock town pantries in Canaan and Norridgewock as well as the backpack program.

The pantry stock allows food to be distributed to people who are not a part of the school population, such as those without children or the elderly.

A truck and a driver donated by Pleasant River Lumber and Chaffee Transport twice weekly picks up the food, brings it to Canaan and Norridgewock to stock the towns’ pantries, and then drops it off in Skowhegan for the backpack program.

“What the school is doing is incredible on its own,” Carrier said. “They delivered about 12,000 meals today alone, and they’re busing them directly to our homes. It’s just amazing.”

Norridgewock Town Manager Richard LaBelle said that the town chose to use their food pantry donations differently than Canaan. Canaan residents packed their food into 150 bags and handed them out to those in town in need. Norridgewock is involved in providing hot meals.

“The town is supporting but nor organizing hot meals for takeout and delivery,” LaBelle said.

The meals, prepared at the First Congregational Church at 36 River Road in Norridgewock, are available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m. The town has also set up a pop-up pantry with help from the New Balance Foundation that will now send boxes of food with the hot meals.

Toilet paper is available for purchase at $1 a roll to help offset costs volunteers incur in their efforts.

“It’s all free and donation-based,” LaBelle said. “We are really trying to focus on Norridgewock residents, but we’re not turning anybody away. The town is willing to be the point of contact for those that want to sign up. We will help get that information communicated for efficient meal planning.”

MSAD 54 serves the towns of Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield.

Waterville Public Schools are changing the delivery schedule for meals delivered to students, Superintendent Eric Haley announced Friday.

Buses will be on the road Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting Monday, March 30, delivering two breakfasts and two lunches to each student, covering those two meals on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The Waterville program is open to anyone 18 or younger.

“In normal times and especially during this difficult time, we know how important proper nourishment is for every student,” Haley said in the release. “Yesterday we delivered 1,626 meals, which is our high so far. Let’s serve even more next week by encouraging our neighbor’s children who haven’t participated before to start.

Haley ended the announcement with encouraging words and offered the school system’s help to any who needed it.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.