By Sophia Jerome
During the 2020 school year, Montpelier High School staff and faculty members have offered additional enrichment classes for any high school students who have a limited course schedule. A few of these enrichment programs have been working together throughout the first quarter.
The Giving it Back class, led by Whitney Machnik and Molly Clark, and the Mastering Food and Fire class, led by Sam Bromley and Brigitte Savard, along with Tom Sabo’s Environmental Applications course, have been collaborating with the UES Backpack Program and the Montpelier Rotary to provide food to Union Elementary School families this fall.
The UES Backpack Program, according to Dawn Provost, former president of the Montpelier Rotary Club, started in 2015 as a program offered through the Vermont Foodbank. The Rotarians teamed up with prior UES Principal Chris Hennessey and the greater community to offer food to UES families in need.
The program provides 35 families with freshly made food and non-perishable items every Friday. Most of the food included in these meals comes from the gardens and greenhouses at MHS. Tom Sabo’s Environmental Applications class has been responsible for harvesting food from the gardens each week.
Once the food is harvested, students enrolled in the Mastering Food and Fire class prepare the food for the Backpack Program, contributing everything from homemade bread and rolls to coleslaw, hummus, and kimchi. Each Friday morning, the food bags are delivered to Union Elementary School, where students take it home with them when they leave.
“We were interested in providing food to the community in an effort to alleviate food insecurity, and then we found out about the Backpack Program,” said Sabo, an MHS educator and executive director of the Center for Sustainable Systems. “One of the [Backpack Program] goals was to provide fresh food in the weekly offerings (most of it had been nonperishable food items). So it was a great match.”
At its peak, sending home 51 meals to families that could benefit from food support, the UES Backpack Program has done an exceptional job at providing for families in need and bringing the community together. Montpelier High School students and faculty members are hoping to continue their participation in the program into the future.