Food for the body, food for the soul – By Denise Pendleton – Belfast – Waldo

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By Denise Pendleton | Jul 18, 2020

Literacy Volunteers has joined up with FOOD, the Feeding Opportunities & Outreach Directive, in a multi-agency collaborative effort led by Waldo Community Action Partners as a lead partner and sponsor of the federal Child Nutrition Summer Food Service Program.

This initiative was begun in 2019 under the direction of the Community Food for Children Committee, which includes Belfast Public Health Nursing, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, WCAP, members of Belfast Garden Club, Literacy Volunteers and other interested community volunteers.

Waldo County Technical Center has become a new community partner, offering its facility as a base for several functions, including food preparation and storage. Mid-Coast Transportation will provide food delivery to nine sites in Belfast, Searsport, Swanville and Stockton Springs.

The FOOD distribution program is running for eight weeks, until Aug. 27, visiting every Monday (distributing three days’ worth of breakfast and lunch meals) and Thursday (distributing four days’ worth of breakfast and lunch meals), serving an estimated 75 to 100 children each day. Volunteers will be packing and delivering the food and providing enrichment activities. Protocols for social distancing and safety are strictly followed.

Educational enrichment activities are offered by a team that includes Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, the Restorative Justice Project, Literacy Volunteers and members of the Belfast Garden Club. The team provides an activity of the day at each neighborhood site, including a community circle to check in with the kids and see how they are doing during these isolating times, and a read-aloud of stories about growing veggies to make a stew, taking a nature walk, making friends, or resolving a conflict.

Families are given take-home resources that include books, recipe and menu cards, a baby oak tree seedling, a one-page “Making Friends with Nature” workbook, and related handouts. The goal of the education team is to inform and inspire families to take time this summer to practice healthy nutrition, communicate about feelings, and experience the joys of reading aloud and getting outside to enjoy the natural world.

The Literacy Volunteers Book Drive seeks to meet the needs of children who, due to the pandemic, have not been in the classroom where books are shared and read aloud on a daily basis. Last year, LVWC led a book drive for children of asylum seekers in Portland, which resulted in over 200 books being distributed. This summer, volunteers want to replicate this drive to benefit area families.

Why does this book drive matter? According to Scholastic, “summer setback” often has its greatest impact on children from low-income families. During the summer, their reading achievement typically declines by an average of three months, studies show. The absence of regular classroom attendance due to the pandemic, added to this summer setback, makes this an especially important time to get books and reading aloud into the lives of families.

Literacy Volunteers hopes other community members will want to join this effort to provide the pleasure and power of children’s books that can give joy and hope to these families through upcoming months of uncertainty and disruption of routines caused by the pandemic.

Waldo County Technical Center is providing a collection site for donated books. Those who wish to purchase new books online to donate can have them sent directly to the Waldo County Technical Center, 1022 Waldo Road, Waldo, ME 04915, with “Attention: LVWC Book Drive.” Book donations may also be dropped off at the front office there between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until Aug. 12. Books are quarantined for one week before delivery to neighborhood families by volunteers.

For more information about how to contribute to the book drive, either by donating or purchasing books from a list of recommended titles or by providing a monetary contribution, contact Denise Pendleton at 338-3197 or dpendleton@rsu71.org.

Denise Pendleton is coordinator of Literacy Volunteers of Waldo County.

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