Hunger in Knox County: AIO Weekend Backpacks launch Year-Three fundraising

Posted:  Monday, June 19, 2017 - 8:45am

Across Knox County, store counters have begun to display milk jugs decorated with reminders that the Weekend Backpack Program is fundraising again to send food home next school year with children who might otherwise be hungry.

 Maine has the third highest rate of hunger of all the states, with nearly 16 percent of its households — 203,000 people — experiencing food insecurity.  A lot of those hungry people are children.

According to the Maine Department of Education, 46 percent of the children in Knox County experience food insecurity.  In RSU 13 (Rockland, Owls Head, Thomaston) it’s 61 percent ; in RSU 40 (Medomak) it’s 49 percent.  It’s 46 percent in St. George School, and 26 percent in Camden-Rockport Elementary.  

A federal program buys breakfasts and lunches at school for these children, but weekends can be tough.  

In the fall of 2015, Area Interfaith Outreach’s Weekend Backpack Program began sending food home on weekends, starting with two schools in Rockland, growing to  twelve schools by Christmas. 

This year the program reached 310 children in 17 schools, from Camden (25 children) to Cushing (6), from Warren (38) to Washington (17), from South in Rockland (53) to Thomaston (21).  The backpack food is a four-week menu rotation with nutritious breakfasts, lunches and snacks for the child, plus ingredients for a meal for the family. 

The bill that AIO must pay to Good Shepherd Food Bank for all that Friday food is $225 per child per year.  If we include 310 children again next year, that’s $70,000.  

The Midcoast community has responded generously in the first two years, so AIO is confident that it will happen again.  Every Thursday, 25 to 30 people from all over Knox County come to the assembly line to pack food bags, load cars, and deliver to the schools in time for Friday.  Many more have written checks.

In addition to the quarters and dollar bills that shoppers will drop in the store-counter milk jugs,  people who want to keep Knox County children from going hungry  next school year can send donations to AIO, P.O. Box 113, Rockland, ME 04841 (marked backpack program) or go to either web site, or and click on PayPal.  Every size gift is wonderful.