On an early spring day, with a mix of rain and snow, we visited the Winslow Community Cupboard in Kennebec County, located in the Winslow Congregational Church. The cooler weather didn’t stop the nearly 30 volunteers from greeting pantry visitors with a smile, handing each car a menu of items to select from and then packing boxes quickly and efficiently.
This is how every distribution day works at the Winslow Community Cupboard. With their drive-thru choice model, visitors experience a low-touch distribution and still have the opportunity to choose from a menu of food items. “We believe in client-choice. That way, our community is getting what they need,” said Bruce Bottiglierie, executive director. The cupboard offers pet supplies and everyday household items along with nutritious food options.
We met with Bruce Bottiglierie and Kristi Bourgoin, the two leads behind the cupboard. Kristi does all of the administrative work and Bruce handles operations. Bruce remembers, “My mom was a single mother, and there were times when I only had a can of corn for dinner. I would look forward to a treat of an Entenmann’s cake each month.” He shared this as his why behind his dedication to addressing food security in Winslow, “I don’t want our community to experience this. There are still things I can’t eat because that’s all I had growing up for the longest time, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”
Bruce had dreams of opening a food pantry in Winslow and made those dreams come true in 2019, just before the beginning of the pandemic. The cupboard was launched because of the USDA Farm to Family Food Boxes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Truck to Trunk and Food Emergency Assistance programs. The food box program delivered emergency food boxes weighing 25-30 pounds of fresh produce, milk, dairy and cooked meats to Americans across the country. The cupboard took part in distributing these boxes and realized there was a heightened need for food in Winslow and the surrounding towns.
Shortly after, the Winslow Congregational Church in partnership with Good Shepherd Food Bank, launched the Winslow Community Cupboard, specifically addressing food insecurity in Winslow. Along with food from the Food Bank, the cupboard receives food from Hannaford, local community donations and fresh produce from Mainers Feeding Mainers Farm Partner, Field of Greens in Albion.
When we visited, it was just like every distribution day for the cupboard, cars wrapped around the church and down the road, waiting to drive-thru and choose their food. There were students from Temple Academy volunteering while we were there. Denise Lafountain, head of school, brings students every two weeks to lend a helping hand. Along with the students, regular volunteers, including two retired Sappi workers, lend a hand throughout the week leading up to the distribution and during the day. One consistent volunteer, Earl, said, “I’ve been volunteering since the beginning and I’m up to 35-40 hours a week.”
With the menu of food items, volunteers are busy packing shelf-stable food and grabbing orders from the cooler and freezer. With the food storage buildings being a level up, they added a conveyer belt to roll the food down to a volunteer to grab and then load into cars. Over the past three years, they’ve been trying to make the system more efficient and fast for volunteers and easier on labor for them.
This is just the beginning for the Winslow Community Cupboard. Bruce’s passion shines through the pantry. You can find him smiling and greeting cars on a distribution day, joking and cheering on volunteers, and simply making everyone feel comfortable.
The Winslow Community Cupboard is open every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 4 – 6 p.m. Please visit their website for more information about the pantry.
With our partner agencies spread throughout the entire state, there will likely be help nearby if you need food. If you’re looking for help or interested in donating food or volunteering at your local food pantry, please visit our Food Map to find a pantry near you.
Good Shepherd Food Bank works in partnership with nearly 600 hunger-relief organizations, located from Kittery to Fort Kent, to help distribute food to community members in need. Our network of partner agencies includes food pantries, meal sites, senior centers, school programs, and healthcare facilities.
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