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Falmouth program hopes to aid hungry kids

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Falmouth program hopes to aid hungry kids

FALMOUTH — As another school year drew to a close last week, students across the state rushed out to enjoy the many pleasures of summer vacation.

And while almost every kid is glad to be rid of tests and homework for a few months, some students will sorely miss one staple of the school day: lunch.

For many low-income students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch, the meal they get in the school cafeteria is the most reliable one – and sometimes the only one – of the day.

Compared to school districts across Maine, Falmouth has one of the lowest percentages of students receiving free and reduced lunch: only about 6 percent, or 130 students. But that doesn't make life any easier for families struggling to make ends meet.

Now Jillaine Geary, a member of the Falmouth Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, has partnered with the Falmouth Food Pantry to found Food for Falmouth Kids, a program designed to combat food insecurity in her community.

"Unfortunately, a lot of these kids are left home alone over the summer vacation because their parents are out working to support them," Geary said. "So a lot of the food is single-serve and easy to make – Ramen noodles, mac and cheese."

Food for Falmouth Kids hopes to build off an existing Falmouth Food Pantry program that distributes "Kids Bags" throughout the summer – once in June, and twice in July and August – full of food designed to help a food-insecure child get through two weeks at a time.

The summer's first batch of Kids Bags went out on Monday. Geary hopes Food for Falmouth Kids can help fill that need year-round, on weekends and during other school vacations.

And unlike some similar programs, Geary has chosen not to institute any income guidelines.

"If they're saying they have a need, we're trusting that and going to try to meet their need," she said.

All this food costs money, and Food for Falmouth Kids is seeking donations. Bags for the summer alone – 25 families have already made requests for a total of about 60 children – are expected to cost nearly $7,500.

To contribute, visit the program's GoFundMe site at gofundme.com/9jslg4 or send a check to the Falmouth Food Pantry, 271 Falmouth Road, Falmouth, ME 04105, with Kids Bags in the memo line.

Food donations are also welcome. The program is seeking raisins, Graham crackers, canned tuna, cereal, peanut butter, jelly, fresh and canned fruit, baby carrots, cheese, fish sticks, granola bars and much more, as well as deodorant, toothpaste, body wash and shampoo for male and female teens.

Children and families can pick up Kids Bags at the Falmouth Food Pantry, adjacent to Town Hall, or have them delivered discreetly at home. They can request Kids Bags in person, or by contacting pantry Director Dotty Blanchard at dorothyb@maine.rr.com, or emailing foodforfalmouthkids@gmail.com. All requests will remain anonymous beyond food pantry volunteers, Geary said.

"Many believe that food insecurity is a problem that we don't have in Falmouth, and that is clearly not the case," Carrie Riley, another Falmouth Elementary PTO member, said in an email. "While we may not be on the scale of other towns, we have families in need."

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter:@brendantwist.