Eliminating Hunger in Maine for 35 Years

The story of Good Shepherd Food Bank is one of small beginnings, but of consistent and impressive growth. In 1981, JoAnn and Ray Pike noticed the amount of food being wasted locally and soon after saw a newspaper article about a food bank in Kansas City.

The Pikes shared the information they had received from the Harvesters Food Bank in Kansas City about soliciting food from the food industry and sharing it with those in need during a small home prayer group. Many in the group saw a need to create a food bank in Maine.

Initial funding for Good Shepherd Food Bank came from a walk-a-thon held on April 12th, 1981 (Palm Sunday), which raised $6,000. The first Food Bank facility was located in an apartment and garage of the Pike’s home. The operation remained there for only 8 months because the quantity of donated food soon outgrew the facility. The organization then moved from the Pike’s home to a 3,000 square feet space in the old Continental Mill in Lewiston.

Food Sourcing

Seeing a need to expand their capacity to serve those in need, the Pikes contacted Maine’s food industry. They explained the tax benefits of contributing products to a food bank and the value of collecting products at a central point of distribution. Major companies trusted the growing organization enough to give it a chance to fulfill its promise of reaching Mainers in need. The first food donors included Burnham & Morrell (BM Beans) and Snow’s Clam Chowder.

The organization’s big breakthrough with the food industry came in 1983 when Hannaford Supermarkets studied the process of retail companies contributing products to major food banks and made the decision to contribute its products to Good Shepherd Food Bank, to be distributed to nonprofit agencies that feed low-income people. Hannaford established a reclamation center to facilitate the process of contributing products from the entire service area of Hannaford Supermarkets.

The addition of Walmart Superstores, Shaw’s Supermarkets, Barber Foods Co., Lepage Bakeries, SureWinner Foods, and many smaller companies as food donors insured a steady supply of highly nutritious foods for Maine’s people who are in greatest need of assistance.

Distribution of Food

Distribution of food to those in need is accomplished with the collaborative efforts of other nonprofit agencies. In 1981, the Pikes contacted local churches and a few emergency food programs in Lewiston/Auburn and the surrounding area. As the quantities of donated food increased, they reached farther, adding partner agencies in the Portland and Augusta regions. Today the Food Bank partners with more than 400 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, schools, and other community programs in every county in the state.

Outgrowing Our Warehouse Space

When the Food Bank moved from the Pike’s home to the Continental Mill location, space increased to 7,000 square feet, then to 14,000 square feet and 21,000 square feet in subsequent expansions. Yet this space was still inadequate and inappropriate for food storage. After an extensive search, in 1987 the Food Bank relocated to a 30,000 square-foot space in a former food warehouse on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. Several years later, 10,000 square feet was added in order to handle all the food. Renovations were done and a freezer and walk-in coolers were constructed.

By 1998, due to a need for increased capacity, the Board considered purchasing the building at 415 Lisbon Street. When inspections of the space confirmed that a section of the building was unsafe, the Board decided to abandon this site and construct a new warehouse. In July 2001, Good Shepherd Food Bank had the great privilege of moving into a newly constructed warehouse, designed specifically for its operations. The facility has 53,000 square feet of usable space, with a height of 34 feet to accommodate larger quantities of food. In 2015, the Food Bank completed a cold storage expansion project. The coolers can now hold 22 tractor-trailer loads of produce and dairy, while the freezer can accommodate 16 tractor-trailer loads of meat and other frozen products.

Multiple Locations to Serve All of Maine

In the past, agencies located several hours away from the Food Bank headquarters in Auburn routinely complained that the distance was a major obstacle to their ability to obtain adequate quantities of food. The organization addressed this problem and its responsibility to serve the entire state of Maine by establishing a distribution warehouse in Brewer in 2001. As the need for hunger relief services increased over the years, the organization determined it was necessary to increase its capacity in this region. In 2015, Good Shepherd Food Bank purchased a 40,000 square foot building in Hampden, which now houses the organization’s North-East operations.