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Penobscot Bay Press
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News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, December 20, 2018
Local volunteers provide food for the holiday break
Local volunteers provide food for the holiday break

Volunteer packers

Volunteers John Wilson, Anne Bowes and Dee Miller work together to get bags packed. These bags were distributed to Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School students before the Thanksgiving break.

Photo courtesy of Amy Vaughn

by Monique Labbe

As students at Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School prepare for the holiday break, volunteers with the Kids in the Kitchen program are busy making sure those students go home with healthy food choices to put in their bellies and recipes to get their parents involved.

Kids in the Kitchen coordinators Amy Vaughn and Rebecca Emerson approached the board of the Island Food Pantry four years ago to help them get the program off the ground. Fast forward, and the Island Food Pantry and the group now work together.

Carolyn Friedell, who is on the board of the Island Food Pantry, said that the group had been looking for ways to help community youth continue to have access to meals during school vacations, and that the Kids in the Kitchen idea seemed like “the perfect fit.”

Vaughn and Emerson said the idea emerged from a group of teachers, staff, parents and community members, who were meeting to develop a pipeline of supports for children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“Schools across the country were implementing backpack programs to send food home over weekends and holidays and we studied those existing programs to learn from them,” said Vaughn. “The leaders of those backpack programs were often frustrated that the food they sent home was heavily processed and packaged.”

The group decided to take a different approach, that encouraged healthier eating and developing skills and confidence in the kitchen.

Before school vacations, a group of volunteers gets together to package all of the food items and recipes, and those are delivered to the school. During the Thanksgiving vacation in November, students went home with apples, carrots, butternut squash, celery, raisins, a box of pasta, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and a handful of recipes to try throughout the week.

The food is donated by the Island Food Pantry, and bags and packing materials are provided by Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, where Emerson is employed.

“Kids in the Kitchen is a great way to bring together school and community partners to provide support for children,” said Vaughn. “It promotes connections between children and their parents or guardians, invites kids to build cooking skills and have fun in the kitchen, and provides extra food for any families that might be facing a difficult time.”

Those wishing to contribute to the program can do so by donating to the Island Food Pantry, or by volunteering to to help prepare bags to send home with the students. Vaughn can be contacted at amydeerisle@gmail.com, and Emerson and Shauna Schmidt are the point people at BHBT. The group also has a Facebook page, Kids in the Kitchen DIS, which has additional information.