ELLSWORTH — The mood was light as Mark Politte, owner of Stanley Subaru, and Debbie Murray, assistant store manager at Hannaford in Ellsworth, handed out $100 Hannaford gift cards to 52 teachers at Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School on a beautiful Friday afternoon.
But the message Politte conveyed was sobering.
“We hear story after story of your efforts to make sure kids don’t go hungry,” Politte said.
Hannaford supplied 59 of the cards.
“We know a lot of teachers, and we know that many of them dip into their own pockets to help keep students fed, particularly at the end of the year like this,” said Politte in a press release, adding that 1 in 4 Maine children is food insecure.
Food insecurity has gotten worse in the state since 2011, with Maine now ranking seventh worst in the nation, according to a 2016 U.S. Department of Agriculture report. Sixteen percent of households in the state report having limited access to adequate food. While the national average is 12 percent and has been falling, Maine’s numbers have risen.