For the fourth year, three County hospitals are using the celebration of National Hospital Week to hold a food drive to help out those in need in their communities. The Hospitals Against Hunger effort kicks off on May 1 and runs through May 11.
With specific needs identified in each of the County regions served by Northern Maine Medical Center, The Aroostook Medical Center and Houlton Regional Hospital, the hospitals are opting to each collect for their own region’s respective cause while undergoing this joint food drive effort.
“Not only do we each understand the needs of our own region best, but it makes it more personal for employees and community members taking part in Hospitals Against Hunger to know their donations are supporting an identified need in their own community,” said Jamie Guerrette, TAMC community health specialist and one of the organizers of the annual food drive.
For TAMC, that support will once again be directed to the Summer Gap Feeding Program, a program with which TAMC partners with United Way of Aroostook, the City of Presque Isle and Presque Isle Housing Authority. The program, which was created last year, delivers lunches to children in low income housing in Presque Isle during the month of August. It was created to fill the need during the “gap” time in which the federally funded lunch program over the summer ends as high school students return to school but elementary and middle school students are still home due to the split harvest scheduled in MSAD #1.
“Last year, we fed about 250 kids a day, five days a week for four weeks in Presque Isle and Mapleton,” explained Guerrette. “In addition to the support TAMC provided in delivering the meals each day, we also held an incredibly successful snack drive last year during Hospitals Against Hunger. Our employees donated about 10,000 snack items, not only providing snacks each day for the Summer Gap program but also allowing us to fill local food cupboards in Presque Isle, Mars Hill and Washburn, as well as support the snack program in the Fort Fairfield school system. We are hoping to equal that success again this year.”
TAMC will be collecting food at all of their locations: AR Gould Memorial Hospital and North Street Healthcare in Presque Isle; the Aroostook Health Center and Mars Hill Health Center in Mars Hill; the Caribou Health Center and the Fort Fairfield Health Center. While the drive is primarily geared toward their own employees, community members are invited to drop off donations if they choose.
Northern Maine Medical Center will also be accepting food donations at all of their sites: Medical Office Building, Forest Hill, Acadia Family Health Center in Madawaska and the hospital. Members of the public are encouraged to make donations in drop off areas at these sites in addition to the donations made internally by employees. Anyone who brings in a box of cereal to contribute to the cereal wall that they will be building will be provided a healthy treat. All food items collected will be donated to the Fort Kent Food Pantry.
“The availability of healthy food for our communities is one of our top three priorities to prevent hunger. Good nutrition is essential to a healthy life for our patients and employees, and we are committed to supporting local efforts to this end. We are proud to be a participant in Hospitals Against Hunger again this year,” said Joanne Fortin, NMMC director of communications.
Also taking part in this cause again this year is Houlton Regional Hospital. Employees at the hospital will be donating food items for the Houlton Area Backpacks for Kids Program. This program has helped 42 families from the Southern Aroostook area.
“Approximately 80 to 100 children are being assisted with some snack and easy preparation type of foods during their weekends when supply may be short,” explained Janet Vose, HRH community health education supervisor. “During the week, schools do a great job of providing needed food at no charge, but on weekends families sometimes experience food shortage, leading to hungry children. We are eager to support this program that helps those in need in our own community. What a great way to give back!”
While the hospitals are collaborating in honor of National Hospital Week (May 6-12), the Hospitals Against Hunger effort will begin at the beginning of the month to allow more time for collection. The food drive will wrap up on Friday, May 11 at each location. Community members who want to support these local hospital efforts are encouraged to drop off items prior to May 11. Questions can be directed to the individual hospitals: TAMC, 768-4012; NMMC, 834-1353; or HRH, 532-2900.