Local organizations and businesses team up to fill summer feeding gap

Release Date: 02/09/2017

When Ashton Embelton of Easton heard that her friends needed money for food she turned to her piggy bank. Her ‘Loose Change Changes Lives’ campaign has been helping people from all over. Pictured with Ashton are Sherry Locke from the United Way of Aroostook (left) and Jamie Guerrette from TAMC.
Aroostook County –
For many children in Presque Isle, finding a decent meal on a regular basis can prove difficult, particularly when school is not in session. There are programs in place that help, such as the SAD #1’s summer feeding program; however, when a gap in service was identified, a collaboration of local organizations stepped up to meet that need.
            In accordance with USDA guidelines, the school district’s summer feeding program ends once the high school goes back in session in August, as they are not allowed to run two separate feeding programs at the same time.  However, since elementary and middle school children do not return to school for another three weeks, it means some children have simply not been getting the food they need during that time.
The Aroostook Medical Center, the United Way of Aroostook, the Presque Isle Housing Authority, and the City of Presque Isle have partnered together to help bridge that gap.
“During that three week time, a budget that normally provides just dinner now must provide three meals a day, often to more than just one child,” said Jamie Guerrette, community health specialist at TAMC. “This problem seems fairly unique to Presque Isle because of the split harvest break.”
            Guerrette and Sherry Locke, executive director of The United Way of Aroostook, realized the problem last summer, when they were offering activities for children in collaboration with the Presque Isle Housing Authority.  The duo worked to find a solution and to gather support from businesses and to find volunteers, leading to the creation of the Summer Gap Feeding Program. 
            “This exemplifies our motto, ‘Living United,’ said Locke. When our community sees a problem, they find a way to solve it.  By bringing the community together to solve the problem the United Way of Aroostook is doing what we do best in our community.”
Food will be collected and assembled through the Presque Isle Recreation Department. The new Sargent Family Community Center has a beautiful kitchen area and food will be assembled ala carte style and handed out using TAMC’s “WOW wagon”.
“We are looking forward to working together to fill this need in our community,” said Chris Beaulieu, director of the Presque Isle Recreation Department. “We will be helping to prepare 20 days’ worth of meals that will assist approximately 250 children daily.”
Jennifer Trombley, director of the Presque Isle Housing Authority said the organization is glad to be a part of a community-wide solution that will help support so many families in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“It is very rewarding and heartwarming to be working with local community-based agencies such as TAMC and United Way,” Trombley said. “The core group of individuals who have taken the time to meet and get to know some of the families who live at the Presque Isle Housing Authority have been swift in their response after identifying a need in our community. We are glad to be building relationships with organizations that hit the ground running and are genuine in their actions to assist the people who need their help.”

As word of the Summer Gap Feeding Program is getting out, community support has already been tremendous. Cassidy Orthodontics and Northern Lighthouse have each stepped up to sponsor a day during the program.  Farm Credit East has committed to be an Early Bird Sponsor, covering the expenses for a half day.  Smith’s Farm is donating fresh broccoli and cauliflower for the program, while ACAP is going to do a juice box drive.
Locke said, “Help is coming in in all shapes and sizes; large check, small check, food donations and volunteers.  It’s only by working together as a community that we will be able to solve the problem.”
The hope is that more businesses, organizations, clubs, church groups or families will choose to become involved.  There are many ways to help. Sponsor a day, do a cereal or snack food drive, volunteer to serve, or donate any amount you are able.
More information about the Summer Gap Feeding Program is available on the United Way of Aroostook Facebook page or by contacting Sherry Locke at 207-764-5197.
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