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From Misty Mornings to Sunlit Roads: Delivering to Downeast

By Laura Gordon, Service-Learning Specialist

On Wednesday, July 5, I joined one of Good Shepherd Food Bank’s drivers, Bill Turner, on a distribution run to Downeast Maine. We left the Hannaford Center, the Food Bank’s Hampden-based distribution center, at 5:30 a.m. The drive started cool and foggy, and there was hardly any traffic on the roads following the Fourth of July holiday. Through picturesque landscapes, our tires carried us from one destination to another. Four partner agencies awaited our arrival, and with each stop, we witnessed the power of collaboration as dedicated individuals worked tirelessly.

Our journey through the heart of Downeast Maine led us to our first stop, Tree of Life Food Pantry, nestled in the charming town of Blue Hill. As we pulled in, Bill and I were greeted by a group of volunteers ready to unload food to stock their shelves. Tree of Life Food Pantry uses a client-choice model, encouraging their neighbors to go in and pick out their food. The pantry offers a variety of choices of shelf-stable and fresh foods. This partner also has an adjoining thrift store for community members to purchase affordable clothing, and all proceeds from the thrift store go back into the food pantry. Once the volunteers’ synchronized efforts cleared the pallets, Bill loaded the empty pallets back onto the box truck, and we set forth to our next destination.

A stone’s throw from our previous stop was Healthy Peninsula, a community center offering various services to community members. We dropped off some CSFP boxes that volunteers would deliver to the community and fresh produce that will go out on the Magic Food Bus. The Magic Food Bus is a traveling bus that provides fresh veggies and books throughout the community of Blue Hill. As we pulled away from Healthy Peninsula, the fog cleared, and we made our way to our next stop in Ellsworth.

At Loaves and Fishes, we dropped off our biggest food delivery. This partner serves as a food pantry and a pickup location for other partners in the area. The interior of Loaves and Fishes looks just like a small grocery store and features a client-choice model of distribution. Neighbors can come in once a week, grab a shopping cart, and select the food they want. They just finished renovating their new location off Route 1 a short time ago, and the new building’s increased storage space allows them to serve more people more often. Since opening the doors of this location, the pantry has seen a 3,000% increase. One of my favorite parts of the new building is the demonstration kitchen, where volunteers offer cooking classes. This new location is beautiful and welcoming, but more importantly, it helps Loaves and Fishes better meet the needs of their community. Their efficient volunteers were quick to unload the eight pallets of food (all stacked high!) and to organize it within the walls of the community hub.

Our last stop of the day was Downeast Community Partners (DCP), an organization that offers a variety of resources and services to its local communities. DCP has several locations, but the one we visited was the Avery Lane office in Ellsworth. The Avery Lane office has a beautiful campus with several buildings. We made our way to the back of the campus, where a staff member met us. Their small warehouse holds resources and food for families receiving services. Most food items are snack and lunch items for children enrolled in their Head Start program. They also offer an emergency box program and refer neighbors to the nearest food pantries to their places of residence.

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.