Academy students learn about hunger in Maine

HELPING WITH HUNGER — Fryeburg Academy International students and Hannaford in Bridgton help to feed area school children. From left to right are Xinyu ’Sindy’ Du, Yiren ‘Ethan’ Wang, Gulsen Oztosun, Zheng ‘Alex’ Liu, Runairy Infante Store Manager Ken Hedley, Tshering Sherpa, and Xiyuan ‘Ada’ Huang. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Libby, Fryeburg Academy)

HELPING WITH HUNGER — Fryeburg Academy International students and Hannaford in Bridgton help to feed area school children. From left to right are Xinyu ’Sindy’ Du, Yiren ‘Ethan’ Wang, Gulsen Oztosun, Zheng ‘Alex’ Liu, Runairy Infante Store Manager Ken Hedley, Tshering Sherpa, and Xiyuan ‘Ada’ Huang. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Libby, Fryeburg Academy)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

Shop ‘til you drop.

That is a phrase that describes Americans obsession with being a consumer — buying the latest and the greatest items.

But, it isn’t exactly true.

As a matter of fact, 14.9 million children in the United States of America experience food insecurity. According to statistics cited on the Feeding America website, 19% of children living in the U.S. are hungry, and often don’t know where their next meal will come from. In Maine, one in four children is food insecure, the website said. That correlates to 24% of the population under the age of 18 who live in this state.

Last week, a handful of boarding students at Fryeburg Academy learned about hunger in America on the local level.

Not only did they hear facts that countered the myth that America is the richest nation, but also the students had the opportunity to go grocery shopping for others, according to Fryeburg Academy teacher Sharon Libby.

Sixty percent of students in Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) 72 live in households which qualify for free or reduced meals at school.

So, what happens on the weekends and during school vacations when those children do not have access to those free meals? There are probably times they wish there were more things to eat at home.

Academy students got an education about hunger on the local level, and they got a helping hand to fill their grocery cart for community children’s weekend meals.

Hannaford in Bridgton not only matched the funds the students had for food purchases, but the local business vouched for three times the amount of money the students started with, Libby said.

The program that the students donated to is called The Sunshine Backpack Food Program, according to Libby.

“It is available during the school year to MSAD 72 elementary students. It is now serving 45 children,” she said.

“Each backpack contains a breakfast, lunch and a snack for each weekend day and extra food for school vacations,” she said. “It was founded by Chris Gillespie because she wanted to stop childhood hunger in our area,” Libby said, adding the program is run completely by volunteers and funded by donations. Donations are tax deductible.

Plus, a “donation of $300 a year provides a child with more than 110 days of not being hungry,” Libby said.

The boarding students at Fryeburg Academy hail from other countries so their recent experience was an eye-opener, Libby said.

The Mystery Bus is one of the many activities boarding students can sign up for between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m., she said.

The road trips range greatly: doing yoga at a nature retreat, bowling, skiing at Shawnee Peak, touring a local business or learning a new skill — to name a few. Every month or two, Libby tries to plan a community-service activity for the students who opt to take the Mystery Bus.

 

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