Superintendent Armand Pires is pleased to announce that following a successful pilot program last year, the Medway Public Schools is expanding its in-school food pantry and Weekend Backpack Program to include both elementary schools in town.
The program launched in 2018 with the opening of the Burke-Memorial Elementary School’s in-school food pantry, with about 10 bags a week being put together for students in need. Starting this year the program has expanded at the school, and now also includes the McGovern School.
“The program went really well last year and we’re excited to be expanding it to both elementary schools this year,” said Medway Village Church Food Pantry Director Susan Dietrich. “We recognize the need that exists for some of our younger residents in town and this will help us meet that need.”
All of the food is stored at the Burke-Memorial School. Each Wednesday, around a dozen volunteers gather to prepare the backpacks.
Almost 30 bags of food are packaged per week for McGovern students, and another almost 20 for Burke-Memorial students.
Dietrich or a volunteer brings bags for McGovern students to the school on Thursday evenings, and students at both schools pick up the bags at their school’s respective nurse’s office at the end of the day on Friday. The empty bags are returned on Monday.
There are rolling sign-ups for participation, and any student can enroll during the year. There are no requirements to receive the bags and those who would like to participate should go to the principal's office at the school.
"The students and their families have been very appreciative of the bags so far and we're excited the program has gone so well," McGovern School Principal Amy McDonald said. "It fills a growing need for our school population, and fits perfectly with our strategies for supporting students who may need assistance."
Dietrich noted that many of the younger people who volunteer to package the bags are current Medway students.
"This program has been a great volunteer opportunity for families," Dietrich said. "We encourage this kind of participation, as a way for members of the community of all ages to experience hands-on service for their neighbors."
The expansion of the program means that more food is needed to stock the shelves.
“Now that we’re doing almost 50 bags a week, we’re always looking for donations from the community,” Dietrich said. “We’re very grateful for the support we’ve received so far.”
The program distributes individual serving sizes of the foods they receive. Donations in bulk/case quantities are most helpful.
“We also aim to provide healthy options," Principal McDonald said. "The kids are very excited to be receiving such tasty food."
Suggested donation items include the following:
Fruit cups in 100 percent juice - mixed fruit, peaches, etc.
Individual cups of microwavable Rice-A-Roni
Ready Pasta pouches (Barilla) - rotini, elbows or penne
Individual bags of pretzels - 10-pack or larger
Individual bags of Goldfish crackers - cases of 30
Individual boxes of raisins, packages of six or larger
Boxes of instant oatmeal packets, like Quaker reduced-sugar
Pirate's Booty - cases of 36 individual bags
Nutri-Grain breakfast bars
Nature Valley granola bars
Boom Chicka Pop popcorn, sea salt flavor - cases of 24 individual bags
Residents are also able to donate to the backpack program by purchasing select items at the check-out line at the Shaw’s supermarket in town.
The Weekend Backpack Program is an extension of the Medway Village Food Pantry, a private, non-profit group. The Medway Village Food Pantry is a member agency of the Greater Boston Food Bank.
As a member agency, the Medway Village Food Pantry is able to order food in bulk at a reduced cost. Dietrich said she is able to provide shelf-stable milk, juice boxes and applesauce for the backpacks from the GBFB, and these items are not needed through community donations.