Empty Bowls event slated for noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday

MILFORD – With its beautiful colonial homes set among rolling hills, Mont Vernon seems an unlikely place to need a school food pantry.

But this winter, the principal, school nurse and guidance counselor began to stock a small unused office at the Village School with pasta, peanut butter and other staples from Share Outreach.

Share, which provides food, clothing, and emergency financial assistance to those in need in the Souhegan Valley, recently expanded into the schools, starting last year with Milford High School, at Project Drive, the alternative high school in Milford and now in the Mont Vernon Village School.

Share Director Chris Janson said Amherst elementary schools and the middle and high schools, part of SAU 39 with Mont Vernon, also are looking into starting their own food pantries.

“My impression is that sometimes schools don’t know who needs support,” Janson said. “By offering more, it’s a way to connect with families” having problems.

During a visit to the Village School pantry last week, Principal John Shuttinger said that for many years now the school nurse and guidance counselor have been calling families at Thanksgiving and Christmas to see if they need help.

The pantry is an expansion of that effort. It’s also available to any student during the school day who’s having a hard day and wants a snack or comes in too late for breakfast.

“Hard times hit different families at different times. The needs ebb and flow,” Shuttinger said.

The school pantry can’t provide the wide range of food and toiletries that Share can, he said, but a flier explaining all Share’s services is tucked into each of the cardboard boxes waiting for pickup.

Share’s food pantry struggles to provide food for more than 500 families a year, and the increasing demand means the charity organization needs its annual Empty Bowls more than ever.

The fourth annual event is from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at Share Outreach, 1 Columbus Ave., Milford.

Janson said last year the event was took place at Milford Middle School and was not as well attended as usual because it was a beautiful spring day in April – not soup weather.

So, organizers moved it to March, when the weather is more predictably chilly, and they’ll serve a simple meal of soup, bread and beverages. Along with raising money, the goal is to remind attendees there are people in the community who suffer from hunger and poverty.

Each participant will receive a bowl, handcrafted by local school children or an area artist.

This year, the soups are donated by the Black Forest Restaurant, Giorgios Restaurant, the Longhorn Steakhouse, the Mont Vernon General Store, Moulton’s Market, Papa Joe’s Humble Kitchen and the Union Street Grill.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.