Food 4 Thought Backpack Program


Heart-wrenching hunger facts:

  1. According to the USDA, Maine ranks 18th in the nation and #1 in New England in terms of child food insecurity.
  2. Food insecurity has increased by 50% over the past decade.
  3. Over 25% of children in our local communities are eligible for free or reduced lunches and possibly go home hungry on weekends. In fact, as much as 35% of students in one of our own schools are eligible for free or reduced lunches.

How is hunger affecting our own community?

Here is some food for thought:

In October of this past fall, a small group of community members came together with an idea to start a Backpack program in the local RSU 21 school district. We had heard about Backpack Programs in other schools and believed this would best meet the growing numbers of many hungry children in our own schools. In brief, Backpack Programs provide food in plain-looking backpacks to students on weekends, students who are at risk for hunger between school lunch on Fridays and school breakfast on Mondays. With no direct experience with such a program, yet with a passion to make a difference in the lives of these children, we decided to launch our own Backpack Program.

We reached out to partner with Community Outreach Services (COS), which for our small group meant we had the expertise and guidance of COS’s 24 years of experience addressing community hunger. COS responded eagerly by organizing a core group of volunteers willing to do the legwork to get a Backpack Program started in the community. The goal was set. We would launch the program to begin serving students in need in the Fall of 2015. A name was chosen the Food for Thought Backpack Program was underway.

What we’ve learned so far is just how great the need is for a Backpack Program. Because our school district percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch is low relative to other larger populated areas of the state, we don’t qualify for resources or assistance from larger organizations such as Good Shepherd Food Bank ’s Backpack Program. In our own RSU 21 community, however, 298 of own elementary students and another 228 of our middle and high school students qualify for free or reduced lunch (per Maine Department of Education website, 10/31/12 data), and are at risk for hunger on weekends when they do not have access to breakfast or lunch at school. Our Food for Thought Backpack Program group feels this is unacceptable that 526 of our community’s students may not be getting enough to eat on weekends. Five hundred twenty-six school children need not come hungry to school on Mondays.

The Food for Thought Backpack Program and COS are hoping not only to organize, fund, implement and sustain a successful Backpack Program to ultimately serve all our community’s students in need; but also to shine a spotlight on this under-recognized and often invisible issue of childhood hunger in our own community. We are pleased to report that the response to the Backpack Program in its short existence so far has been overwhelmingly positive. We held a successful Christmas Prelude Gift Wrapping Fundraiser, with unexpectedly bountiful donations of gift wrapping supplies from community members and businesses, local business owners donating space for us to wrap and warm up, and support for the program from Prelude visitors and locals alike. We’ve had generous donors step up to support children which costs about $250 per student for the duration of the school year.

We are so very excited and thankful! We want to continue to build upon our initial successes, enthusiasm and support to build a Backpack Program that our community can be proud of. We need volunteers and donations to make this possible. We would be grateful for your involvement in whatever capacity you can give. Please contact us here at COS by phone at ( 207) 604-0445 or by email at to let us know how you would like to be part of the Food for Thought Backpack Program ! Thank you so much!

By Dr. Andrea Brown


-Andrea Savona Brown, M.D., grew up in Kennebunkport, graduating from Kennebunk High School in 1989.  Andrea enjoys being actively involved in the community.  She has held numerous volunteer positions within her communities, and practiced as a Family Medicine physician in Kennebunk for 10 years before retiring in 2012 to pursue an alternative career in the medical field. She volunteered as an EMT with KEMS and later served on the Board, and was on the Board of the medical group Primecare and served as President of the Primecare Board as well as on the Board of SMMC (currently SMHC).

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Do You See It?

Illustrated so perfectly in our logo, COS is a community of neighbors extending a helping hand to our neighbors in the Kennebunks who are faced with Food, Fuel, and Specific Needs challenges.

Look again at our logo. The “O” is a group of people forming a circle, locked arm-in-arm. How well this represents our community! The communities of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel that make up what we know as the Kennebunks are a special place and we often see people of different backgrounds and walks of life coming together side-by-side to make a difference. Our new logo (actually our first ever logo) was designed to enable people to have that “aha” moment when they finally see it. You know, the kind when your perspective shifts and you actually get something that has been there all along.

Those who are familiar with the Kennebunks are aware of the natural beauty of the landscape, the incredible architecture of the shipbuilding tycoons of days gone by, and the quaint and friendly downtown areas, complete with the best shopping, dining and entertainment New England has to offer; but there is another landscape very few see. It is the landscape of real need and hunger. This reality includes stories of families who are experiencing financial difficulties and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. There are elderly couples that can’t pay for their next oil delivery due to fixed income and a long, cold Maine winter; a father who lost his job; and the single Mom that has developed cancer and has no health insurance, while her two young children go to school hungry on Monday morning with little in their tummies to feed them that day. These stories are real and many; right here in the Kennebunks, the very community we serve. Our organization has witnessed a 47% increase in demand for meals and other program services directly from our community just this past year. The need is great and it is growing.

This puts COS at a very significant crossroads. We are in need of a community “huddle” if you will. We recognize that many of you have been involved and are aware of the needs here in the Kennebunks, but we have been told regularly by locals as well as seasonal residents that find out about the scope of the needs in this area that they never realized the reality of the situation and would have helped more and would have helped sooner if they had known.

So that is our premise. People in this great community genuinely want to help. And communication is our goal. To let people know the actual needs and offer ways that we can work together to deliver that help where needed.

Will you be a part of the solution? Thank you for considering and please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions or feedback on ways you think we can better serve this community for the next 25 years. Click here to fill out a contact form or email us.

Will You Serve?

Will You Serve?

Community Outreach Services (COS) is made up of volunteers who love the Kennebunks. Even more importantly, these men and women have come together because they want to make a difference in our community. Volunteers are the lifeblood of COS. We have many people that volunteer at COS, putting in hundreds of hours of work. We couldn’t do it without them! The benefits of helping are enormous. As a volunteer you are giving back to the community, working with terrific people, and feeling great about being part of the solution.

When you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in. Will you serve as a volunteer in this community? Will you help us with those in great need? The hardest part of serving is figuring out what to do. We get it. That’s why we’re making it easy. Simply fill out the information below and we will get in contact with you to see how you can best serve here at COS.

Volunteer Form

Will You Give?

Will You Give?

The last year was a significant year in the life of COS. For the first time in a long time, the demand for our services was significantly higher than our funding. Approximately $80,000 of grants, donations and fundraising came in to help fulfill our mission. The problem lies in that over $100,000 of needs were presented and fulfilled in the same period. Not only does this increase in need represent a substantial increase over prior years, but it also represents a decrease in cash reserves that COS has on hand for purposes of managing seasonal needs.

This year we need your help more than ever to cover the needs in our community. Would you consider giving a monetary gift in the form of an online donation by click on the “donate now” button below, or mail a check to the address below. Thank you for your support!

Help us reach $50,000!

Make checks payable to:
Community Outreach Services
P.O. Box 1175
Kennebunk, ME 04043

Note: We are a 501(c)3 charitable organization under the Internal Revenue Code, and as such, all cash donations are fully tax deductible.