hird grader Karmen Sweeney (center) and fifth grader Eli Marsh (right) peel oranges as part of an event hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of Bangor on Thursday after school. They announced the start of a weekend food pantry at the event where economically disadvantaged children can take food home to their families from a donation of $85,000 by Hannaford Supermarkets. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik

Nearly 60 kids got advice from a professional Wednesday as they wore white aprons and paper chef’s hats and made pizza and salad in the Bangor Housing Authority’s gymnasium. Kerry Altiero, owner of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, coached the members of the Boys and Girls Club of Bangor as they flattened the dough and added sauce, cheese and toppings.

The pizza-making was part of Thursday’s rollout of the Boys and Girls Club of Bangor’s new weekend food pantry, which will allow children enrolled in any club programs to take home a bag of groceries every Friday.

Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik

“We mostly serve kids who are economically disadvantaged, living in the public housing neighborhood,” Catherine Myatt, the club’s director, said. “A lot of the families have a need for this, with kids worrying about where their next meal is coming from.”

The need has been growing in Bangor in recent years.

The portion of Bangor public school students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals at school grew to 57 percent in the 2018-19 school year from 54 percent during the 2014-15 year, according to data from the Maine De partment of Education . Statewide, Maine has seen its rate of food insecurity rise in recent years as the national rate has fallen.

An $85,000 donation from Hannaford Supermarkets made the Boys and Girls Club’s weekend food pantry possible.

The Boys and Girls Club of Bangor provides 50 to 60 children with daily after-school meals. With an ongoing partnership with food banks and Hannaford, Myatt said the club hopes to keep the weekend food pantry going and expand the daily after-school meal program.

Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik

Altiero attended Thursday’s event as one of four chefs who partner with Hannaford on the supermarket chain’s Chef’s Table program, which puts on events that address childhood hunger.

“There shouldn’t be any child that has to worry about being hungry,” Myatt said. “Our goal is to help children meet their needs so they can achieve their full potential.”