In “Divided They Stand: Part I,” we introduced you to a couple from Waterville who decided to run against each other in this year’s city election.
While they’re opponents on the ballot, they are united to help their community.
Jennifer and David Johnson are running against each other for Ward 1 Warden.
While Jenn is a Democrat, and Dave is a Republican, they told TV5’s Caitlin Burchill that they’re working together to make a difference in their community.
The George Mitchell School in Waterville already has a handful of food assistance programs in place, like free lunch and snack bins around every corner, but some kids are still hungry.
“Student population runs roughly between 62 and 70 (percent free and reduced lunches). We have some classrooms who even have eighty percent free and reduced in their classrooms,” said Principal of the George Mitchell School Allan Martin.
Jennifer and David Johnson have two kids who attend the school. Despite their different political views, they want to do something about it.
The Johnsons have started a campaign to open a food pantry program at the school.
“We feed kids Monday through Friday, but they also have to eat Friday, Saturday, Sunday and some of these kids don’t get a lot to eat, so come Monday morning, you notice those kids who are just devouring everything in sight, so it’s important to have the food bank and food pack programs available,” said Principal Martin.
“It’s horrible to hear the guidance counselors at the school say the worst day of the year is the first day before summer vacation when the kids are crying because summer is going to be a long hunger time. It’s just heartbreaking,” said Jenn Johnson.
“We’ve tried to do this ourselves the past couple years, just haven’t been able to do it. Lack a funding is big and sometimes the food programs come secondary which shouldn’t, but it does. So without their help, it can’t happen. So the old adage, it takes a community to run a school is what we need,” said Principal Martin.
Even though they have different reasons for doing it.
“As we were talking about it, we realized that we both agreed that the kids in the elementary should not be hungry, but we didn’t agree on the why it was important,” said Jenn Johnson.
Jenn thinks kids should be fed because taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves is the right thing to do.
Dave has a more fiscally conservative approach.
“If we can get the local businesses to fund the food pantry, that’s going to be a lot more cost effective then having tax dollars go into the state or even the local government and then paying people to manage that money and set everything up. Instead of having volunteers do it,” he said.
But they say the reason doesn’t matter, the end result does.
“The whys are not as important as the whats and I think there are a lot of issues out there that are the same way,” said Jenn Johnson.
“The end result is we’ll be able to have a food pantry at the school for many many years, not just when our kids are there,” said Dave Johnson.
As for the election, it’s still all good, competitive fun.
“I’m planning on voting for her anyway. I know I’m going to lose. It’s okay,” said Dave Johnson.
“Don’t vote for him, don’t vote for him,” said Jenn Johnson laughing.
We’ll hear from the Johnsons again Wednesday after the election.
If you’re interested in helping with the Johnson’s food pantry initiative, you can call the phone number or email the email address below:
George J. Mitchell School phone number: (207) 873-0695
So far, they have raised enough money to fund the pantry for the next two years.
If you’d like to start a food pantry at a school near you, you can contact the Good Shepherd Food Bank at (207) 782-3554. They have helped more than a dozen communities around the state open school food pantries.