WISCASSET, Maine — Among the rows of lockers at Wiscasset Middle High School you can find… fruit. Baskets scattered throughout the school let students reach in for a healthy snack whenever they need it.
“The stigma of being a kid who has to take food from school to home, it’s gone," says Debra Pooler, a teacher at the school. "People aren’t feeling that anymore.”
That’s because administrators aren’t hiding food in certain room or giving it out in secret, it’s everywhere and available at any time.
“Teachers like myself will keep food in their rooms," Pooler says. "I have plenty of stuff to make sandwiches.”
Kids here are encouraged to eat when they are hungry, even in class. Twice a week, a table is set up in the lobby with supplies for students to grab as they please. It’s also open to teachers.
“That piece of it has taken away the stigma of pointing somebody out and saying they are needy because they see the teachers with it as well,” says Hollie Paul, one of the organizers of the school's food pantry.
If anyone wants to take food home, bags are packed and passed out after school. The local Hannaford, Shaw’s and the Good Shepherd Food Bank keep the school well stocked. Wiscasset Middle High School also received grant money from the Good Shepherd Food Bank this year to support the teachers who keep the pantry program running.
“They do things like buy additional storage and shelving, they do stipends for their volunteers, they do gas cards so people can deliver food to people who can’t get to the pantry,” says Jessica Gildea, Youth and Family Initiatives Manager at the Good Shepherd Food Bank.
Making meals readily available means kids who are hungry — for whatever reason — can get what they need without having to ask.
“Don’t put it in a locked closet where someone needs to get a key in order for you to get a granola bar," says Paul. "That doesn’t make sense.”
When food is everywhere, food insecurity is nowhere to be found.