Portland middle school students take hunger relief into their own hands

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PORTLAND — Students at Lyman Moore Middle School are spearheading a program to make sure none of their peers go hungry.

It started as a lesson last year for seventh graders about the effects of global poverty and food insecurity. But after two students researched a health problem in the community and developed an action plan, which resulted in a food drive for Preble Street Resource Center last year, students this year decided to create their own food pantry to support local families.

On Friday, Oct. 31, all students from Lyman Moore participated in a food drive where they went around the neighborhood collecting non-perishable goods. They also collected money for food. At the end of the day, students had raised more than $1,000 and collected over 1,000 food items.

Food will be discretely distributed to students and families in need, Principal Stephen Rogers said, using an “honor system” to regulate distribution. He also said the school community generally has a good idea about which families need more help.

“If someone indicates they want food, we’re not going to ask them whether they have the resources to get food or not,” Rogers said.

He said what will likely happen is food will be sent home with students at the end of the day or on Friday afternoons, so they have something for the weekend. Students will have access to the pantry through guidance counselors and social workers.

Rogers said that while the school has several food services for students, including free breakfast, free- or reduced-cost lunch, and after-school snacks, the students wanted to do more.

“They said ‘we know there’s kids that go home either at night or over the weekend and they don’t get enough to eat, so how do we fill that gap?’ So that was their goal in this,” he said. “So they’ll put packages together that will be discretely distributed as needed.”

The students’ goal is to keep the pantry stocked and sustainable, sixth-grade social studies teacher Caroline Foster said.

“They want to keep it going,” Foster said. “We want to keep it sustainable indefinitely. As long as there’s poverty and hunger, they hope it keeps going.”

And while the Oct. 31 kickoff collection was a success, both Rogers and Foster said the students will likely come up with new and different ways to keep the pantry stocked. Foster said the Student Council is planning another food drive for Thanksgiving,  but how fast the collected food gets distributed will dictate how many more projects there will be.

“The kids have brainstormed a ton of ideas if we need to do some more fundraising or if we need to figure something else out,” she said.

Rogers said it’s possible the students would do another walk, but they would likely come up with different ideas “to keep it fresh.” He said, for example, the kids could plan a charity basketball game where people had to donate a canned good for admission.

“I’m sure the kids will think of something that I couldn’t come up with in my wildest dreams,” Rogers said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Students at Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland collected food to stock their own food pantry. The collected food will go to students and families in need and will be discretely distributed. 

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.