Franklin Countys First News

Local school-based food pantry adding milk to menu


Left to right is Connie Woodward, coordinator of the Good Shepherd Food Bank's Mainers Feeding Mainers program; Andy Russell, sales manager at Oakhurst; Katie Hallman. Mallett School nurse and food pantry organizer; Shannon Coffin, manager of Good Shepherd's Child Hunger Program; Oakhurst President John Bennett; Teresa Hardy, local dairy farmer and chair of Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council; and Nikki Schofield, a dairy farmer.

FARMINGTON - A partnership between food security and dairy industry organizations is bringing a crucial missing element to the plate of Maine families this month: a cold glass of milk.

Good Shepherd Food Bank, the Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council and Oakhurst Dairy are working together to bring the Milk2MyPlate program to the state. It will pilot in three schools, including the James B. Longley School in Lewiston, the Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Livermore and the W.G. Mallett School. Each school runs a pantry program designed to get nutritional food in the hands of local families, supported by the Good Shepherd Food Bank program. Mallett School has a monthly pickup day every third Wednesday, with school nurse and organizer Katie Hallman sending packs of food home with other children on a regular basis.

The Mallett School's pantry initiative is one of a hundred across the state, according to Shannon Coffin, child hunger program manager at Good Shepherd. After starting in a single Portland school five years ago, the program has grown into one that benefits 5,000 families monthly, distributing 2,000 pounds of fresh produce among other foods. Some basic supplies, such as toothbrushes, are also included.

Organizers say that adding milk is a natural extension for that program. Local dairy farmer Teresa Hardy noted that milk has nine essential nutrients and is critical for the development of healthy teeth and bones, particularly for growing children.

"We want to make sure they're getting what they need," Hardy said.

Hardy chairs the Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council, which is providing a $4,000 grant to Good Shepherd to purchase milk. The organization approached Oakhurst Dairy, a Portland-based company whose milk is provided by farms in Maine and northern New England. The company agreed to sell milk to the program at the state's minimum price. Half gallon bottles of milk will be distributed in insulated bags donated for the program.

"We're very happy to be part of the program," Oakhurst President John Bennett said. "Logistically, it makes sense for us to be involved."

Coffin said that Mallett, Spruce Mountain and James B. Longley were all selected for the pilot through their combination of high need and low access to food security for struggling families. In Mallett School's case, Coffin noted, organizers were confident that Hallman, a dedicated organizer and school nurse with approximately 30 years of experience, could handle the additional resources. The pantry already has a designated refrigerator which will store the milk prior to distribution.

"We hear from schools all the time," Coffin said, "that dairy is something missing from a lot of kids' plates."

Hallman has already received one emotional phone call from a parent about the addition of Oakhurst milk to the family's monthly allotment of food.

"I wanted to tell you that my son was so impressed with the milk ... that we were able to actually have milk," the message said. "When I finally told him how we got the milk he said that he hoped we could get it again. I just want to say how grateful we are as a family for all that we get from the food pantry. It is so helpful. We are so grateful for the corn and the fresh produce, for all of it."

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5 Responses »

  1. This is great. School nurse Katie Hallman is helping the kids and parents. I am wondering when this will come up to MSAD 58? We have alot of school nurses why cant we have this for the kids?

  2. What a GREAT program! So many families already benefit from this food bank and the addition of milk is fantastic. Thanks Katie for all you do for the kids and families at Mallett.

  3. How many food programs are there? It seems like there's school breakfast, lunch and now they send kids home from school with food for the weekend! It seems to me that parents have no responsibility to feed their children that they brought into the world. My family was poor growing up and there were tough times but we always had food. I don't have enough money to raise a child right now so I'm not sexually active; guaranteeing that I won't ever have to worry about having a child that I can't support.

  4. @Susie: People may have children and then fall on hard times, a parent may die, medical bills may bankrupt them: there are a million reasons that may cause food insecurity. But even if none of those reasons made sense to Susie, would that be an excuse to NOT provide for the hungry, especially children, the disabled, the elderly?

  5. This is fantastic addition to the food pantry. I agree with marie things happen for someone not to be able to provide for their family. It wasnt that long ago we had a huge economic collapse and eople who brought in the high double to even six figure incomes all of a sudden had to go to a food bank. The only peoplle who judge is someone who is scared to be judged themselves.

    Congrats on Oakhurst for doing this for our local schools and thank you.