By Lori Fecteau, Community Health and Hunger Program Manager
Maine’s food pantries face daily challenges which can be difficult to overcome, especially since these organizations are often run by unpaid volunteers. Without warning, a refrigerator filled with milk and fresh produce or a freezer housing meat and fish could suddenly stop humming. In some cases, limited storage space means a pantry has to turn away food donations, resulting in fewer community members being assisted.
Debbie of the River Run Church of the Nazarene Food Pantry in Detroit, Maine understood these challenges all too well. The pantry’s lack of adequate cold and dry storage space prevented them from accepting as many donations as were offered to them. The pantry also operates a community garden and plans to preserve the harvest for use in the fall and winter. However, not having a freezer meant that items from the garden could not be saved for later use.
Thanks to support from the Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) initiative through Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), however, River Run and pantries across the northern and eastern part of the state, benefitted from over $80,000 in direct support to build their infrastructure and maximize their ability to source, store, and distribute nutritious food to neighbors in need.
As a result of the initiative, the pantries met with staff from the Food Bank and local Healthy Maine Partnerships to develop goals and action plans for increasing or sustaining their ability to continue this vital support to their towns and cities.
“We have been able to implement parts of our PICH Action Plan. This has resulted in an increase in fresh produce coming into our food related ministries.” Debbie of the River Run Church shares. “In addition to produce from our community garden, we are now on the distribution list for excess garden produce from area farmers and the distribution list for excess bread and produce from nearby food pantries.”
Seventy-one food pantries in seven counties throughout northern and eastern Maine participated in the PICH assessment. Numerous needs identified through the Food Pantry Self-Assessment process were addressed with funding support from PICH and EMHS. The items included:
- 57 Capacity Building Awards
- Purchases of over 37 new cold storage units
- 9 food pantries installed produce displays to highlight fresh, nutritious foods
- 9 food pantries purchased computers or printers to make nutrition materials available
“We anxiously await our new freezer, storage cabinet, and shelving unit,” said Debbie of the River Run Church. “By gearing up for this increased capacity to store food, we have been able to increase the number of households served, diversify the food products offered, and increase the people being served through our community dinners.”
Good Shepherd Food Bank thanks the partner agencies which participated in this initiative. The Food Bank continues to analyze the results of the combined self-assessments to inform capacity-building efforts moving forward.
In partnership with Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems:
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