Extra Credit!  Maine Credit Unions make significant contribution to expand school backpack and pantry programs across Maine

October 11, 2017

At one of the state’s earliest school food pantries, the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger presented a check for $33,000, a portion of the record-setting $675,000 Maine’s credit unions raised for ending hunger in 2016, to support the Good Shepherd Food Bank’s school backpack and pantry programs across Maine.  The contribution was the second installment of a three-year, $100,000 pledge to help fight childhood hunger, and was made at the John F. Kennedy Kindergarten Center in Biddeford, which has provided more than 43,000 meals to its student community since it started in 2013.  The contribution will not only support existing schools but continue to help expand this vital program to additional schools across Maine in the coming months.
For the past five years, the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger has been a leading partner with Good Shepherd Food Bank to combat the growing issue of childhood hunger.  “When we began our partnership specifically focused on childhood hunger with Good Shepherd Food Bank in 2013, 15 schools were participating in the BackPack program.  Our initial, three-year pledge of $75,000 helped the backpack program grow but also enabled Good Shepherd to launch its pilot school pantry site.  By 2015, over 90 schools were involved and every county in the state had at least one backpack and/or school pantry program.  Today, there are now 134 schools across Maine that are part of the Good Shepherd Food Bank’s School Backpack and School Food Pantry Program.  Last year, more than 600,000 meals were distributed through this program to these schools most vulnerable families,” stated Todd Mason, President of the Maine Credit Union League, in presenting the contribution to representatives from Good Shepherd and the school backpack and pantry programs.
Shannon Coffin, who oversees the Childhood Hunger Programs for Good Shepherd Food Bank, called the involvement of Maine’s credit unions in this cause “crucial.  The Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger’s partnership on Child Hunger relief has been instrumental to our fast-paced growth. Their multi-year pledges allowed us not only to start-up new sites, but sustain the efforts year to year at those schools as we worked to engage community donors and civic groups in their ongoing fundraising and volunteer needs. In addition to providing start-up and sustaining funds for 30 of our partners over the past five years, Maine credit unions’ leadership level gifts have ensured GSFB was able to support the needs of our expanding network through Capacity Building Grants, regular in person visits, training opportunities, and daily support for program coordinators.”
According to Good Shepherd Food Bank, the timing of the contribution at the beginning of a new school year ensures that “it will make a significant impact in schools across the state this year.”  Coffin added, “Maine ranks #1 in New England in terms of child food insecurity with more than 1 in every 5 children deemed food insecure.  The research is clear that children living in food insecure homes are less able to learn than their well-fed peers, are absent from school more frequently, have more behavioral problems in the classroom, and are more prone to health issues.”
Mason said, “October is National Co-Op Month and, as the largest cooperative in Maine with nearly 700,000 credit union members, we are committed to helping our communities.  The Campaign for Ending Hunger and this program is a great example of the cooperative spirit of credit unions, and our philosophy of ‘people helping people’.”
Since 1990, the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger has raised $7.2 million to help end hunger in Maine including a record-setting $675,000 raised in 2016.  All contributions to the Campaign are tax-deductible.