Updated: Jan 31
My name is Dawn McLaughlin. I am currently a Health and Physical Education Instructor at Milo and Brownville Elementary. This is my 36th year of teaching in this community. I am the mom to two boys Bryan and Richie Russell. Bryan is employed at Bath Iron Works and resides in Gardiner, Maine. Richie and his wife Rachel are educators and currently reside in Old Town, Maine with their children Phoebe and Ira. I am the Girl’s Varsity Soccer Coach at Penquis Valley High School and have also coached Varsity and Middle School Basketball throughout my career. I reside in Milo, Maine.
How I became interested in food insecurity
When I contemplate the question of how I became interested in food insecurity, my answer is quite simple, at home. I am the middle child of eight and my parents taught us all about generosity and more importantly serving others. My parents not only talked about helping others they actually helped others. My parents believe that we feed people not because they deserve it but because they are hungry. I believe that this premise has helped me in the goal to end food insecurity one child at a time. With this solid foundation, it wasn’t much of a stretch to start my work in my community to help end food insecurity. Working and living in the poorest town in the poorest county I was presented with numerous opportunities to help others.
My first attempt to help with the food crisis was starting a backpack program that would benefit the students at our elementary schools. Over the years the backpack program has grown and evolved into a program that helps over 100 families with food assistance. The next step in the journey to end food insecurity was partnering with Good Shepherd Food Bank to start a food pantry at our elementary school. Over the years and because of Covid the program has grown and changed to a twice a month food giveaway at our town hall. Recently, our program received a $10,000 grant to provide food choice at our food pantry. This grant enabled us to survey our families and find what they wanted not just what they needed. This change has been a huge success and I have had very positive feedback. I believe that families that need food should be able to choose the types of food they receive. This change has gone a long way in erasing the stigma attached to going to the town hall for food. It has created a safe and non-judgmental place for people to come when they are in need.
All of this work does not happen in a vacuum, when I can network with others that are like-minded, ie: the Piscataquis Regional Food Center, I jump at the chance. I have been a part of the Ending Hunger by 2030 initiative, which further opened my eyes to the needs of our state. The opportunity to serve on the board of PRFC is another step to help a great organization end hunger in our county.