GUILFORD, Maine — The Weekend Backpack Program in SAD 4 has received a much-needed financial boost. The Plum Creek Foundation has donated $2,000 to the program, which sends a backpack full of food home with needy children each weekend.
“We think it’s a wonderful program. They have an excellent idea on how to help kids out,” said Mark Doty, community affairs manager for Plum Creek. “Plum Creek Foundation supports foundations that improve the quality of life of those in the area that we work in.”
The program at the Piscataquis Community Elementary School and Piscataquis Community Secondary School provides two days’ worth of food to 56 students in grades K-12 each Friday. SAD 4 works with the Partnership Food Pantry in Guilford.
The backpacks, which were donated, are filled by volunteers on Fridays and are returned by the students on Monday.
Roxanne Chase, executive secretary to the superintendent and food service director, and Sharon Foster, school nurse for SAD 4, oversee the program.
The Plum Creek donation, along with other donations, will fund the program through the rest of the school year, said Chase.
“There’s clearly, and unfortunately, a real need [for this program],” said Ed French, vice president of Eastern Maine United Way. “It’s going to be a growing need. It’s almost like you don’t have to seek out interest because as soon as folks become aware of it, they like it and they see its value.”
French said SAD 64, which serves Bradford, Corinth, Hudson, Kenduskeag and Stetson, also has started a backpack program for its students. Schools in Sullivan and Kingman have expressed interest in creating a program, he said, and six other schools have requested more information.
“There’s a lot of interest and need,” said French, who added that the Kiwanis Club also has provided a donation to the program, but didn’t say what the donation was.
Al Hunt, pantry director for Partnership Food Pantry, said there are 6-7 pounds of food per backpack per week. Food in each backpack includes a box of cereal, cans of fruit and soup, milk, peanut butter, a box of macaroni and cheese, apples and cereal bars.
Chase said the program spends about $100 per week on food for all of the backpacks. She estimates it costs about $4,200 per school year.