Yarmouth volunteers to respond to rural hunger

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YARMOUTH — People from Yarmouth and surrounding communities will be coming together next weekend to help feed children in areas of the state that don’t have as many resources.

Yarmouth resident Barbara Horton and her neighbors started an effort four years ago to package meals for children in rural parts of northern Maine. On April 11, Horton and volunteers will be putting together meals at the First Parish Congregational Church on Main Street.

Horton said it’s important to help children in the northern part of the state because they have less access to meals when they need them.

“There are few, if any, food pantries up in northern, rural Maine,” she said.

Horton, who works at the Yarmouth Food Pantry, said hunger is a greater problem in summer months, when children aren’t in school and can’t get lunch during the day. The meals packaged by Horton and volunteers are given to the children in July and August.

Horton said she and her neighbors first heard of the growing number of hungry kids in Maine four years ago and wanted to do something to help.

“We were really saddened to hear 85,000 kids in the state of Maine had to worry about where they would get food,” she said.

After conducting research and gathering information from various food pantries, Horton found that children in rural northern Maine were in the worst situation. With the distance from the closest food pantry to the areas where these children live, she said it’s hard for them to get food. Horton said spoilage is another problem, so kids don’t have access to food that will last.

To help, Horton began working with Outreach Inc. to prepare food for the kids. Good Shepherd Food Bank transports the packaged food.

For the past three years, and again this year, volunteers will meet at the church for two hours to package the food in an assembly line. The packages include dry macaroni, soy, dry cheese, and dry milk, which make macaroni and cheese when water and heat are added.

Horton said the volunteers make 10,000 packages each year and she’s looking forward to reaching 50,000 meals next year.

The meals each cost 25 cents; usually, Horton and her neighbors pay the total of $2,500. This year, five banks – Gorham Savings, Bath Savings, Norway Savings, People’s United, and KeyBank – donated the money. 

Horton said usually around 65 people from the Yarmouth area volunteer to package the food. She said a lot of high school students from Yarmouth, Cumberland, and Falmouth who are looking to fulfill community service requirements often volunteer. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as local Lions Club members, also volunteer, along with various other residents.

Horton said it’s shocking to hear of children in Maine who need this kind of assistance, but she’s glad young people from the Yarmouth area, who may be much better off, are lending their time to help.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.