GULP program provides weekend meals for students
NORWAY — Each Friday, Grace United Methodist Church of Norway provides 62 local students with nutritious and easy-to-prepare food for the weekend.
Grace United Lunch Packs, or GULP, was established in 2018 by Norma Raboin, following a TV story about the 31 Backpacks program in Houghton. She knew local students had a similar need.
Raboin was able to secure 501(c)(3) non-profit status through Grace United Methodist Church in Norway and immediately began fundraising.
She continued to head the program until last year. At that time, Chris Spence, who had assisted Raboin with the program, stepped up as coordinator.
“This program is so important for some and we wanted to keep it going,” said Spence, who also coordinates the Grace United Methodist Church food pantry.
Their goal remains the same — making sure those students in need receive enough food to take home to tide them over for two days.
The bags are packed with two breakfasts, two lunches, and two snacks, including juice and milk.
“We also try to make healthy selections when purchasing items,” Spence said.
Spence gives credit to the help from Renee Pollard’s students at Norway High School and NHS Key Club.
Each week students pick up the boxes of food items from Grace United Methodist Church to deliver to the schools.
“The Key Club packs up the bags of food and gets them into students’ backpacks at the public school each week,” said Spence.
Norway-Vulcan Area School District fills 52 bags and Holy Spirit Catholic School in Norway receives 10 filled bags.
“It works out great,” Spence said. “I appreciate all the help.”
While the program is considered need-based, they do not do any kind of income check. She also noted that food is distributed in a discreet manner.
Parents or guardians wishing to sign up for the program can do so by contacting the school office or the student’s teacher.
“We send out paperwork at the beginning of the year, but anyone is welcome to start the program at any time,” Spence added.
The GULP program continues to run on donations, as well as grants.
“We are always in need for funding, and appreciate any donations,” Spence said.
She also noted the food pantry at Grace United Methodist is open from 10 a.m. to noon each Wednesday for those in need. If unable to pick up during this time, individuals can call the church at 906-563-8917 to schedule a time.
“Anyone in need within the local area is welcome,” she said.
Terri Castelaz can be reached at 906-774-2772 ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org