Bus keeps food banks stuffed in area communities

SCARBOROUGH — School buses can be seen every weekday bringing South Portland students to and from school and after-school activities, but one bus making its rounds Monday was visiting area schools for a very different purpose.

On Monday, Nov. 23, a bus from Custom Coach of Portland traveled to schools in Portland, Scarborough and South Portland as part of Rewind 100.9’s annual Stuff the Bus event, which benefits Preble Street. Stops in South Portland included Skillin Elementary, Small Elementary, Brown Elementary and Kaler Elementary.

On Friday, Nov. 20, the bus made stops at Cape Elizabeth Middle School and both South Portland middle schools.

Since beginning in 2006, Stuff the Bus has provided more than a million pounds of food for Preble Street’s soup kitchens and food pantry.

The organization, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, provides three meals every day of the year at Preble Street Resource Center, Teen Center and Florence House, as well as distributing food to 200 families a week at its food pantry. Last year, Preble Street distributed more than 630,000 meals.

“Stuff the Bus is the largest single food drive for Preble Street, bringing in more than 100,000 pounds of food each year. (“Morning Show” host) Chuck (Igo) and Rewind 100.9 work for months with schools and businesses and we’re grateful to him and the other faithful community members who never fail to fill our shelves to the rafters. This food will last up to three months, helping us to distribute meals to thousands of teens, adults and families each year,” Elena Schmidt, chief development officer for Preble Street, said in a press release.

Kelly Mullen-Martin, principal of Blue Point and Pleasant Hill primary schools said it is an event her students always look forward to. Students and staff began collecting canned goods and nonperishables in early November.

“The kids love it,” Mullen-Martin said before the bus arrived at Blue Point school. “They love bringing in something in for someone who is in need. Parents look in their cupboard or stop by the store to help. People are so generous. Every kid gets to participate, so it is great.”

The annual event, she said, serves as a great lesson for the students about need, especially now around the holidays.

Stuff the Bus helps the students “understand that there are people who are in need and we can all do something small to help, but it adds up to a big bus full of food.”

It is not a responsibility many of Blue Point students take lightly.

“It is cute they take it so seriously, especially at this age,” Mullen-Martin said.

Evan Campbell, a first grader, used some money from his bank account to purchase items for the food drive. According to Preble Street, “each dollar donated to Preble Street equals the buying power of an average of seven pounds of food.”

Campbell and fellow first-graders Sebastian Hobler and Zoey Verrill said they enjoy participating in the annual event.

“I feel happy when people are getting what they can’t afford,” Hobler said.

“I feel happy when people get what they really need,” Verrill said. “Stuff the Bus is good.”

Igo doesn’t set goals in terms of food collection. The aim, he said, is to provide Preble Street as much food as possible.

“As much as the economy has improved, there is still need,” Igo said as he and members of South Portland High School’s interact club collected food at Blue Point school. “Thankfully there are groups like Preble Street to help get the food to people in need.”