Good Shepherd Food Bank and the Maine Shared Community Health Needs Assessment collaborative, which includes Central Maine Healthcare, MaineGeneral Health, MaineHealth, Northern Light Health, and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, are partnering to connect volunteers with local food pantries to help meet the unprecedented demand for services across the state of Maine.
The community health collaborative is soliciting among their existing partners to organize COVID-19 compliant activities in communities across the state to help distribute food to Mainers who are struggling with hunger. Once identified, volunteers will be connected with a community resource representative from the food bank to help create an action plan to help meet their local community needs.
“Mainers who experience poverty have been hit first, hit hardest, and will be hit the longest by the pandemic’s continued economic fall-out,” said Kristen Miale, President of Good Shepherd Food Bank. “We have seen an increase in visitation to food pantries, meal sites and shelters across the state as these services become a primary source of nutrition for many Mainers struggling with hunger.”
Every effort will be made to ensure that the Maine CDC’s social distancing guidelines are met. This coordinated effort avoids overwhelming pantry staff with unnecessary personal contact at a time when staff are stretched thin, helps ensure that foods meet nutrition standards and that local needs are considered. An estimated 50 volunteers are being sought to participate.
“Kai Loundon, the Food Bank’s community resource representative, and Natasha Fields of St. Anne’s Penobscot Nation food pantry on Indian Island have enthusiastically welcomed me into their work,” says Jose Alicea-Santiago of Northern Light Health, one of the first to volunteer. “Both have been very flexible and great to work with. I’ve been able to easily fit this volunteer opportunity around my schedule. I’m really looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and making a difference.”
Before COVID-19, more than 200,000 Mainers were unsure as to where they would find their next meal. That number is expected to increase by over 40 percent as the effects of the pandemic continue. While there are a number of robust and active initiatives that have risen to meet this challenge, there are many gaps. This call to action seeking volunteers is just one way to add capacity to a system facing growing demand. This work is in line with Maine’s healthcare systems’ and the Maine CDC’s commitment to improving the health of all Mainers in ways that extend beyond hospital and health department walls.
Good Shepherd Food Bank has more than 500 partner agencies, including food pantries, meal sites, and shelters. They are all feeling the pinch of purchasing limits on essential items such as shelf-stable protein, pasta, rice, and toiletries. This comes at a time when many of these sites have also experienced a drop in volunteers due to concerns over COVID-19.
To find a meal site near you, visit the Food Map on the Good Shepherd Food Bank’s website.
ABOUT MAINE SHARED CHNA
The Maine Shared CHNA (Community Health Needs Assessment) is a collaboration between the Maine CDC, Central Maine Healthcare, MaineGeneral Health, MaineHealth and Northern Light Health. The Maine Shared CHNA is one of the first statewide public-private partnerships to commit to conducting collaborative population health needs assessments. Plans are currently underway to launch the 4th triennial assessment in the fall of 2021. Maine Shared CHNA’s vision is to turn data into action so that Maine will become the healthiest state in the U.S. Learn more at www.mainechna.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.