Hannaford is taking on childhood hunger with a $1 million donation and a pledge to establish food pantries at schools across the Northeast.

The Scarborough-based supermarket chain said it would establish food pantries in 90 schools across Maine and other nearby states as part of a new initiative called Fuel Kids at School. The program is intended to directly address childhood hunger by bringing food supplies into schools and Head Start programs where children can select fresh and healthy food themselves.

Hannaford made the announcement Wednesday morning at a gathering of company executives, chefs and advocates for hunger relief.

“Children can’t be at their best if they’re hungry – or thinking about where their next meal will come from. It is our hope that Fuel Kids at School will take us one step further in nourishing our communities, one child at a time,” said Mike Vail, president of Hannaford, in a news release. “We want access to food to be easy for kids. Locating food pantries where they are – at their schools should make a lasting and deep impact on child nutrition across our five states.”

The plan is to establish 90 on-site food pantries in schools and Head Start programs over the next two years. Here in Maine, $300,000 has been given to Good Shepherd Food Bank to create food pantries in 30 Head Start programs.

“The correlation between access to nutritious food and early childhood development and learning makes Head Start locations the ideal match for our next phase of school-based pantries,” said Kristen Maile, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank. “We know that expanding our pantry sites to serve pre-school-aged children and their families will play an important role in ensuring a bright future for Maine’s youngest citizens.”

As part of the event, Hannaford employees loaded a van with boxes of food to be delivered to the school food pantry of the East End Children’s Workshop in Portland.

Hannaford has long supported hunger relief. Last year, the grocer donated 26 million pounds of food throughout the Northeast and raised $1.1 million through its Hannaford Helps Fight Hunger program to feed people in need.

The company has also donated more than $1 million to nonprofits as a result of its reusable bag program, a portion of which is dedicated to hunger relief.

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