New Food Program
At the Community School, volunteers arrive after classes have ended to fill up bags with pasta, cereal, bread, peanut butter, and toothpaste.
But the bags aren’t headed to a plane for an impoverished nation. Odds are, you may know the recipients.
The Fuel for the Weekend program, launched as part of the district’s free breakfast for children of low-income families, gives out bags of food every Friday and is supported by the Community Comets Food Pantry. At present, it provides for 60 families in town.
Community School Principal Sarah McCracken said that on Mondays at the free breakfast, some students would tell her they hadn’t eaten all weekend. Others would ask if they could take their classmates’ leftovers, and some would leave the cafeteria with food in their pockets for later.
“I began to notice that it was more commonplace,” she said.
One noticeable side effect of this was that these children would often miss more days of school than their classmates, and McCracken said too many missed days can impact their chances of moving to the next grade level.
The Comets Food Pantry
At the end of January, the Comets Food Pantry began filling bags on a weekly basis and given to students who request them. Advance registration isn’t necessary, and a student can request a bag of good the day before if they wish. Forms are given out with each bag so parents can check off items that they’d like to get.
The pantry—set up in a former art room—receives donations from churches, food banks, and many North Attleborough residents.
Local businesses have also given what they can. Freihofers Bakery Outlet donates loaves of bread, bagels, and pastries each week. Altitude Trampoline Park has held drives where staff gives out coupons for jumping time in exchange for food donations.
Keeping The Shelves a Challenge
But according to pantry organizer Sarah Stone, keeping the shelves full is sometimes a challenge. The pantry, though well-supported, doesn’t always have enough to completely fill the bags, and some items requested by parents can’t always be given. When that happens, she contacts area food pantries to see if they can help.
“This was started at the Community School, where the need is the highest,” said Stone. “We’re starting to get kids from other schools.”
Recently, McCracken applied for and received a grant from the YMCA and Stop & Shop to purchase a new refrigerator which will be used to store fruits and vegetables to add to the bags. Stone said the goal of the program is to provide enough for two breakfasts and two dinners for the weekend. The Fuel for the Weekend will end at the close of school in June and pick up again in the fall.
North Attleborough High School’s Leo Club
Last Wednesday, students the North Attleborough High School’s Leo Club were busily filling bags. Stone said that sometimes the kids will carry the bags home themselves, but some parents, afraid of the stigma associated with those that need such help, prefer to pick them up through the school’s rear door themselves.
“We’re trying to fill the need and fill the gap,” said McCracken.
The Community Comets Food Pantry runs a Facebook page with a link to an Amazon wish list that people can order food from. For more information, email email@example.com or visit facebook.com/communitycometsfoodpantry.