Troy Howard Middle School Expands Food Pantry with Community Caring Cart

Like many school districts across Maine, RSU 71 provides a school food pantry program to ensure there are free food options for families to take home with them as an added service to those in need.

“The District has been feeding families in need since, well, forever,” said Carrie Robinson, Front Desk Secretary at Troy Howard Middle School (THMS) in Belfast.

While there is no data point in Maine that details just how many schools offer this type of service, it is abundantly clear that there are a wide range of efforts on all levels throughout Maine and often times they can be found at the local school.

“When our school buildings were closed last spring at the onset of the pandemic, our school nurses partnered with food services and transportation to send home weekly boxed meals and produce,” said Shannon Robbins, School Nurse at A Ames – Gladys Weymouth Elementary Schools in RSU 71. “In fact, we sent home over 22,000 pounds! Families shared with us how much it meant to have these necessities delivered to their homes when it felt too scary to shop in town.”

It’s worth noting that school food pantries and backpack programs are a volunteer effort at most schools and go above and beyond the complimentary school meals that students receive while learning at school and remotely. With the help of several USDA waivers during the pandemic, school nutrition programs have been allowed to be flexible and adaptive in the way school meals are served and most have been able to offer these services at no charge to families.

Suffice it to say, pantry and backpack programs are becoming an important addition to many school communities across Maine and at Troy Howard Middle School they have recently undergone an expansion to reach more families.

Although the district’s nurses, administrators, and guidance staff usually have a good idea of who needs help, they have found that it is still difficult to know if they’ve provided the service equitably.

“We really just never know who is in need,” explained Robyn Mailloux, THMS Nurse.

That is when they came up with the idea to offer the Community Caring Cart as a service to anyone who wants or needs something – they can just come pick it up. Instead of handing a backpack full of food and supplies to a specific student or families, now the cart is available in public areas at school that are easy for parents and students to just take what they need.

“Over the course of the year, I’ve been surprised at what has disappeared from the hallway shelf and who has been taking it,” said Mailloux. “You just don’t know what people’s stories are.”

In addition, there are bags available for people to donate items if they wish and the team is also working on some grab and go bags that are quick and easy to take.

“Anything taco related flies off the shelves, as does of course easy to make staples, mac and cheese and canned soups and fruits,” said Robinson. “Since we are at a middle school level many of our students have some basic cooking skills so they will grab things they can make for themselves. Any time we have fresh produce it goes well, the kids actually like fresh stuff!!!!”

“Lightweight, prepacked goods such as cereal, pasta or rice mixes, soups are very popular. We have also offered fresh produce from Maine farmers including potatoes, apples, carrots- families loved these,” adds Robbins.”

Knowing that food programs are a service provided in many community and schools throughout Maine, we asked the RSU 71 team if they have any advice for schools that are thinking about starting or expanding food pantry programs at their schools.

“I would remind any schools that are trying to do anything like this that you never really know who needs the help so get the word out every way you can,” offers Robinson.

“Partner with your community resources – we couldn’t do this without GBAM (Greater Belfast Area Ministerium Food Cupboard), GSFB (Good Shepard Food Bank), and our area boosters, such as Bell the Cat (a local restaurant) and individual donors,” said Robbins adding that when RSU 71 School Food Pantry began in 2019, they received a generous grant from the Sadie and Harry Davis Foundation that has enabled them to expand their support during the pandemic.

The Maine Department of Education would like to take a moment to thank the dedicated team at RSU 71 as well as the countless school staff members, volunteers, and community partners across Maine working tirelessly to provide services to the families in their communities through food programs and other similar efforts, especially throughout the past year. Your dedication and selflessness does not go unnoticed by the Department or the grateful people that benefit from your work.

Information for this article was provided by RSU 71 as part of the Maine DOE Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. The Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign is an avenue for Maine schools to celebrate successes and share innovative ideas, practices, and models that can be adapted and easily implemented by other Maine schools. Stories are not an endorsement of specific materials, services, or practices and are not intended to promote learning programs that are of cost to students, families, or schools. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at




Nominations Open for Governor’s Volunteerism Awards

There are many different types of positions that help our schools operate day to day, serving as a vital part of Maine’s communities, including our beloved school volunteers! Now is the time to recognize these wonderful human beings for all of the selfless things they do for their community. In addition, there are many youth across our state that take community service learning to a whole different level by taking an active role volunteering in their community and making a real difference.The Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism have celebrated and recognized the role of citizen volunteers in the success and vitality of Maine communities since 1987.  The awards seek to inspire others to be active in civic life and follow in the footsteps of those recognized.Use one of the links below to access nomination instructions and additional information for each form of recognition. All nominations are due April 30 by 5 p.m.

Adult Roll of Honor

Youth Roll of Honor

Competitive awards: Individuals, teams and organizations 

Volunteers make the hearts of Maine communities beat!

Early College Online: UMF Course Gives Mt. Blue Senior the Chance to Research and Share Family History

Early College student Sylvie Haslam, a senior at Mt Blue High School recently published the first part of a three part story on University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) Professor and Author Luann Yetter’s website as part of an Early College course she took this past summer at UMF.

“Sylvie was just one of many high school students, statewide, really, who took advantage of the opportunity to take classes last summer, when the pandemic hit and UMF moved their summer classes online,” said Clarissa Thompson, Early College Campus Coordinator and Associate Professor of Secondary and Middle Education at UMF.

Early college courses are available to Maine high school students at University of Maine System Schools and Maine’s Community Colleges as well through Maine’s Aspirations Program, which is administered by the Maine Department of Education. Students may now apply for early college opportunities at all of Maine’s colleges and universities using one common application portal, this new tool is a significant usability upgrade for students and families navigating early college options in Maine.

The UMF course that Sylvie took is called, Local Stories/Your Stories. Along with classmates from across Maine, she dove into her own local town and family history as material for creative nonfiction, engaging in personal interviews, genealogies, and looking through old newspapers (among other things) to create a vivid story of her personal history.

“This is a great example of the types of expanded opportunities our high school students have as part of the Aspirations program,” said Amy Hubbard, Executive Director of Early College at University of Maine System.

As an introduction to Sylvie’s story, Professor Yetter writes:

Last summer when I taught my class on writing local and family history I got to read some wonderful work. One of the projects I know will be of interest to my readers is this one by Mt. Blue High School senior Sylvie Haslam. Sylvie’s family history in Weld is interwoven with the Cushman family, prominent in the 1800s, and with artist Seavern Hilton who made his mark in the mid twentieth century. Join us as Sylvie explores Weld history, family history and the folk art that traveled far beyond the village of Weld. I have divided her fascinating account into three parts. In Part I, below, we are introduced to the Michael Graham farm and the Cushman family, whose ties to the land go back to the mid-eighteen hundreds. I’m sure you will agree that Sylvie is a talented writer. This high school student has a great future ahead of her!”

Read Part One of Sylvie’s story here: The Shop Land, Part I

UMF and the other University of Maine System campuses, as well as Maine’s Community College System campuses offer a wide range of classes that Maine high school students have continued to participate in online.

“Students have really jumped at the opportunity to take them,” adds Thompson. While participation had been growing steadily before the pandemic, early college programming helped provide additional options for students as high schools adjusted to online and hybrid schedules. Students who participate in early college are more likely to attend college, have higher grades in college, and are more likely to graduate on time.

For more information about early college options at UMF specifically, contact Clarissa Thompson at

Information for this article was provided by the University of Maine System and the University of Maine at Farmington as part of the Maine DOE Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. The Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign is an avenue for Maine schools to celebrate successes and share innovative ideas, practices, and models that can be adapted and easily implemented by other Maine schools. Stories are not an endorsement of specific materials, services, or practices and are not intended to promote learning programs that are of cost to students, families, or schools. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at

Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) 2.0 Seeks Distinguished Educators

Are you passionate about professional growth and technology? Do you want to make a difference in Maine schools? Are you currently teaching in a Maine public school?

The Maine Department of Education is hiring five distinguished educators to join our team in supporting MLTI 2.0 professional learning. These are full-time, two-year, contracted, remote positions. The MLTI 2.0 distinguished educators will provide instructional technology coaching directly to MLTI 2.0 participating educators and work closely with the MLTI 2.0 team to implement the MLTI 2.0 program.

Ideal candidates will be excited about instructional coaching and innovative technology practices in education, eager to work with other teachers, have outstanding communication skills, and experience with middle and/or high school pedagogy.

Distinguished educator positions are set up as an exchange agreement between the Department of Education and your local school district. Through the agreement, the Department pays your local school for the duration of your contract as a distinguished educator, allowing your school to temporarily fill your vacant position and continue to pay you your current rate while you work as a distinguished educator. Once the two-year contract is complete, you will be able to return to your position within that district.

To learn more about the MLTI distinguished educator position, click here to access the full job description.

If you’re interested in applying to be an MLTI 2.0 distinguished educator, click here to access the application form. The application closes April 30th.

If you have questions about the position or the exchange process, check out the FAQ.

Still have questions? Contact the Digital Learning Specialists at the Maine Department of Education to learn more.

Jonathan Graham, Elementary, Digital Learning Specialist,

Emma-Marie Banks, Computer Science and Secondary Digital Learning Specialist,