Rotary’s fight to eradicate Polio worldwide is known by many. Optimism driven by focused vaccination and education programs have practically won the battle, with only eight new cases reported this year.

Conversely, in our own neighborhoods, the number of people that go hungry have risen. The needs this creates spurs local Rotary Clubs, like the Rotary Club of Topsham Expresso, into action. Leading the fight against hunger in this region is the Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program and Topsham Expresso has joined the league of volunteers that work on the Backpack Project, one of the many food security services it offers. The Backpack Program was first developed by the Good Shepard Food Bank and is intended to keep students who participate in the National School Lunch Program from coming to school hungry on Monday morning.

Addressing human needs at such a basic level is the foundation of

Rotary’s Pyramid of Peace and fits perfectly with Topsham

Expresso’s focus on childhood development. Our role as volunteers to assemble Backpacks on one Tuesday night per month is a small part of a task that would not be fulfilled without volunteers. Volunteers provide 70 percent of the effort needed to fill the 207 Backpacks that are distributed to local schools every week. Efforts like these allow busy people the opportunity to be involved in helping their community, something Rotary excels at.

The Backpack menu is prepared by a nutritionist, one of the many services provided by Good Shepard, and proves snacks and meals to supplement the student’s weekend food supply. All food for the Backpack Program is purchased, as opposed to recovered, which meets higher food security standards and gives Mid Coast Hunger Prevention greater flexibility in distributing the Backpacks. In addition, Mid Coast Hunger Prevention provides “pantry boxes”, essentially snack boxes distributed to 24 different school sites on a monthly basis for those students who qualify, but do not participate in the Backpack Program.

While we would wish for hunger in our neighborhoods to diminish, as did the incidence of polio, we applaud all the untiring efforts to overcome hunger. There needs to be continuing attention to the economic issues that are usually at the root of people and families not having the means to buy enough food. Thanks to all Rotarians who support any of these worthy causes.

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