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Valley Unified food service director obtains 92 pairs of sneakers for students in need

FORT KENT, Maine — For Valley Unified food service director Melanie Lagasse, caring for students is about more than just dishing out nutritious meals. Lagasse wrote a grant and donation letter to New Balance shoe company officials and as a result recently obtained 92 new pairs of sneakers which she plans to distribute to area students in need.

New Balance donated $3,680 worth of sneakers in a variety of styles and colors ranging in size from a children’s 13 to a men’s size 9.

“They picked the shoes; I just had to go get them,” Lagasse said.

She traveled to the New Balance factory in Norridgewock to collect the shoes, which when placed side by side stretch across and back the top of two long lunchroom tables. She said the process for distributing the shoes to students will be handled with sensitivity and confidentiality.

Valley Unified food service director Melanie Lagasse obtained 92 pairs of new shoes from New Balance to distribute to Valley students in need.
(Jessica Potila)

“When teachers tell me a kid needs a pair, then when I have the correct size I’ll get them to (the student),” Lagasse said.

Lagasse was hired as the food service director for the Valley Unified school administrative units of MSAD 33, MSAD 27 and the Madawaska School Department last July.

Since then, she has obtained more than $12,000 in grants and donations to aid Valley Unified students, including funding for two yogurt bars in Fort Kent and Madawaska schools, and $1,200 to buy new kitchen equipment for each of the three administrative units.

She also has carried over to the schools a Take Home program she developed in 2014 while working as food service director for the New Sweden Consolidated School. That program, for which Lagasse volunteers her time, involves her filling backpacks with food items — two breakfast items, two lunch items, two fruits and two vegetables which children can bring home for free each week.

It was the Take Home program that prompted Lagasse to seek the sneaker donations from New Balance.

“If parents can’t afford food on the weekend, they probably can’t afford to buy kids shoes,” she said.

Lagasse welcomes food donations from businesses as well as monetary donations or gift cards to local grocery stores to help buy food as well as gently used backpacks to help with the Take Home program in the Valley.

To donate to the Take Home program or for more information, contact Melanie Lagasse at

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