A free lunch?

Lunch is in when school is out. Thanks to a cooperative effort between the Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative, the Liberty Family Foundation (LFF) and the MSAD 15 Food Service Department, kids in Gray and New Gloucester have access to free lunch for the summer.

Beginning on June 24, and continuing through August 16, every weekday – except July 4th – all children who are under the age of 18 can sit for lunch at one of two locations. GNG High School, at 10 Libby Hill Road, will serve lunch between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and at 23 North Raymond Road, home of the Liberty Family Foundation (across from St. Gregory’s Parish), children can sit for lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Attendees are not permitted to use the lunch program as a take-out service, and must eat their meals on-site. There is no application or pre-registration required.

This is the second summer for the program and there have been some changes made. Last year, MSAD 15 simply provided space for the program at the high school; this year the Food Service Department will coordinate the program and prepare the meals on site – thanks to funding from a USDA, federal nutrition program.

Food Service Director Amy Bacon explained that the program not only counts on volunteers to serve and supervise but to provide programming and activities for attendees. Bacon hopes to provide everything from blood pressure screening, for parents accompanying their children, to face painting and crafts for the children in attendance. "It all about the children being safe and having fun, lunch is just an added benefit," she commented.

Last summer, the program provided more than 1,300 meals, about two-thirds of which were served at the high school. This year the hope is to increase those numbers and offer more activities. Bacon noted that a volunteer training session is being held today, June 14 at the GNG high school auxiliary gymnasium from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m.

The involvement of the Liberty Family Foundation was partially inspired by Bree Berthiaume who is a family member, and consults for the foundation. While looking for resources to assist people in need in the GNG area, Bree was introduced to the summer lunch program by Donna Rand who oversees the Community Food Pantry. The Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative has been a supporter of the food pantry and indicated a desire to bring the summer lunch program to Gray. The LFF and Michael Liberty felt that the program would be a significant asset and benefit to the community.

Berthiaume explained, "Michael grew up watching people like his mother Mae and his Aunt Celia prepare and provide food as a means to bring people together, celebrate, comfort others, and help in times of need. They were both wonderful cooks who were generous with their abilities and always cooking for something or someone." She commented, "I think that aspect of his life coupled with other childhood experiences has given Mike a real understanding of the power of a meal and the security it can provide."

According to Bree, with Liberty’s deep-rooted desire to help his community the summer lunch program was the perfect opportunity for the Liberty Family Foundation to partake in the effort of providing children with meals. LFF sponsors the program by providing human resources to assist with the administration of the program as well as a lunch site on its property near Crystal Lake.

With Wilkie’s beach just across the street from the LFF lunch location, it is expected that a good number of beach goers will take advantage of the program. The Liberty Family Foundation and the MSAD 15 remind folks to cross North Raymond Road with caution.

Berthiaume emphasized that the success of the program lies in its volunteers and encourages anyone interested in helping out, as well as anyone seeking more information, contact Amy Bacon at 657-9331 or