By Emily Morrison
It’s that time of year when most teens are making Christmas wish lists and checking them twice, but one Hampden Academy junior has been busy checking another list, counting up the number of meals she’s helped provide for those battling food insecurity.
While taking a dual-enrollment psychology course at UMA and participating in Key Club, show choir and drama, Skyler Manhart has been baking up a storm to help Good Shepherd Food Bank (GSFB) achieve their mission of eliminating hunger in Maine.
For the past two Novembers, Skyler has made “Pies From Sky” — homemade including the crust — and sold her delicious selection of apple, pumpkin, blueberry, pecan and Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie pies for $20 a pop.
And every penny she’s earned she’s donated to GSFB.
Sky has loved creating sweet treats for as long as she can remember. She started cooking with her parents and fell in love with baking.
Last October, Sky combined her love of dessert-making with her passion to support the homeless community, a population often overlooked in smaller cities like Bangor.
Initially, Sky thought she’d make around 20 pies in her kitchen and donate the proceeds to GSFB. Instead, she made 215 pies, sold 190 of them and raised over $3,850.
Sky donated the remaining 25 pies to local shelters hosting Thanksgiving meals.
This past November, Sky put her apron back on and rolled up her sleeves once more. At the time of this writing, she’s sold 105 pies and hopes to raise even more money than last year. With one week before the holiday, she’s on track to meet her goal.
When asked what the biggest takeaway from the project has been, Sky said, “One of the best parts was the breakdown that I got a couple of months after last year’s project. It listed where the money went, how many meals it provided, that kind of thing. It was really interesting and powerful to see what the money had done.”
For Mainers, Sky’s initiative couldn’t come at a better time. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Maine had higher rates of food insecurity than most states with 167,000 Mainers relying on GSFB and its partners. Currently, that number nears 182,000 Mainers (50,000 of whom are children). Maine is fifth in the nation for low food security rates.
Sadly, statistics like these reinforce both the need and the generosity of Sky’s work. According to a 2019 study conducted by Feeding America, Penobscot County has the second highest number of food insecure people in the state (22,840), second only to Cumberland County (33,940).
Though the future looks daunting, Sky’s future plans include continuing to lend households like these a helping hand. In between studying psychology and traveling as much as she can, Sky may not have it all planned out, but she knows one thing for sure.
“I want to work to make change whatever way I can.”
Every dollar that Sky has currently raised has helped distribute three meals to families in need. By this estimate, Sky has single-handedly put 23,100 meals together for those in Penobscot County — roughly one for each person battling food insecurity.
It’s safe to say, Skyler Manhart has made more than pies this year. She’s met her future goal and made change in the best way she can: by giving the rest of us high apple pie in the sky hopes.
For more information on how to donate to Good Shepherd Food Bank, please visit their website at gsfb.org.
See this Section as it appeared in print here