Goods donated to Westbrook Families Feeding Families are delivered directly to local families or are taken to schools for distribution. Courtesy photo

WESTBROOK — Families Feeding Families, a local group started to help feed kids during school breaks, has changed course to feed residents during the pandemic.

Judy Petrie and her church group started the effort about 10 years ago and usually delivered 100 bags filled with peanut butter, jelly and bread for sandwiches to elementary students who needed the food for February and April school vacations.

Now Families Feeding Families is delivering over 30 bags of food weekly to families in need.

Since the pandemic, Petrie’s daughter, Sue Salisbury, who is a member of the Westbrook School Committee, has used the group’s Facebook page to bring together donations from all over the city. Customers of The Daily Grind, the coffee shop she owns with her husband, have been regular donors, she said, and “our church, (the) Prides Corner Congregational Church, and Eastpoint church are especially helpful.”

In the past, the group worked with school social workers to determine how many bags of peanut butter and jelly sandwich supplies would be needed for the school breaks and it also brought donations to the food pantries at the middle and high schools. Now, the group is collecting more than just PB&J fixings, delivering, for example, canned soups and fruit, macaroni and cheese, and granola bars directly to families.

Families Feeding Families also is supplementing the Westbrook School Department’s free meal program during the pandemic.

“It’s been tremendous how they’ve helped. They bring bags of food each week. We call them the peanut butter bags, as they have all of that,” said Mary Emerson, Westbrook School nutrition director.

“There are a lot of groups that are changing and distributing their models, which allows us to bring double the amount of food we sometimes normally would. Westbrook is terrific at gathering resources from all directions,” said Kathryn Sargent, director of the Maine Locker Project, which helps supply food to the schools.

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