Food boxes ready for pickup at an earlier distribution
Photo: Backpack Program
By Lee Burnett, Submissions editor
The Advisory Board for Sanford Backpack Program has canceled the food box distribution scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 15 and is scrambling to maintain the summer food distribution program. More than 500 families have depended on the program.
Advisory Board member Ayn Hanselmann said the cancellation decision was “extremely, extremely difficult” because of the value of the program in combating food insecurity. She stressed that the Backpack Program remains committed to providing weekend food to students in need.
“We need to remind ourselves our core mission is getting food home with kiddos for the weekend,” Hanselmann said. “The Backpack Program is not going away, that’s not ever going to change because of our effort and passion, but our community service is going to shift.”
Continuation of the summer-time food distribution program is in doubt, she said. “We’re unsure at this time,” Hanselmann said. “That depends on our ability to do fundraising.”
The Backpack Program plans to bring back its popular Chocolate Benefit on May 18 at Memorial Gym and is redoubling other fundraising efforts. The benefit had provided half the program’s budget but has been on hiatus for the past three years due to the Covid epidemic.
The end of Covid relief funding is the chief factor in the disruption of food programs, Hanselmann said. Covid funding had allowed the Backpack Program to expand its mission beyond weekend food efforts. For the past three years, the Backpack Program has distributed weekly food boxes during the summer at both Willard School and Sanford High School. It has also distributed food boxes once during the winter, the February distribution that is now canceled.
The cancelation will likely send needy families to existing food pantries at 1204 Main Street, Holy Family Church at 66 North Avenue, Salvation Army at 871 Main Street, and St. George Church at 3 Emerson Street.
The Backpack Program currently fills 220 backpacks on Fridays, mostly for pre-K through Grade 8 students. It also provides a farmers-market-style food distribution at the Middle School and High School that serves 150 students and a new self-serve SpartMart at the high school that serves 75 students, Hanselmann said.