As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, for the past 13 years, I have volunteered at the Winthrop Food Pantry, and I am currently its secretary. During those 13 years, The Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn has been our mainstay in buying affordable food. Supermarkets and stores have given their surplus and cast-offs to the Good Shepherd, which we (as well as other food pantries) would then purchase for 16 cents a pound. We also received donations from our local grocery store and federal food, and along with what we got from the Good Shepherd, this meant we could easily stock our shelves using money generously donated from Winthrop businesses, churches, organizations, and individuals.

But then a not so funny thing happened on the way to the recession. As Craig Hickman, a Winthrop farmer, has noted, “The excess in the system is drying up.” Supermarkets and stores no longer have much of a surplus to donate to Good Shepherd, and the amount of federal food we receive is also greatly diminished. Not surprisingly, because of the recession, more and more people in need have been coming to our food pantry.

For the first time in my memory, in the past few months the Good Shepherd has been unable to provide enough food for our food pantry, and we have had to scramble to get food at retail prices that are quite frankly unsustainable for us. (This is a problem for many other food pantries in the state as well.) As a result, our stock had become very low, and we were looking at significant increases in our food budget.

Then along came the Winthrop High School and Middle School students with their Make a Difference Day, where they collected food and money for the Winthrop Food Pantry. Before I list the results, I want to note that Winthrop has a very small school system—between the the middle school and high school there are about 570 students. Yet they collected 2,300 pounds of food and $1,700. It hardly seems possible that 570 students could collect so much, and it certainly goes to show what these plucky, hardworking students can accomplish when they work together. (I understand that many of the students donated their labor in return for cash donations.)

I am happy to report that the shelves at the food pantry are now well stocked with food collected by the students. Also, the $1,700 will go a long way toward purchasing more food. JoEllen Cottrell, the executive director, and I are nearly beside ourselves with joy that we now have so much food. Truly, the Make a Difference Day made a huge difference to the food pantry and to the people in Winthrop and Wayne who are in need.

As secretary, I have sent a formal thank-you letter to those involved in the schools. But again I would like to thank the students, the student council, the advisors, and the parents who must have inevitably helped with this food drive.

I know this is a cliché, but I’m going to write it anyway—Winthrop High School students and Middle School students, you rock!


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