COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Maine

Good Shepherd Food Bank and its network of 500+ agency partners—including food pantries and meal sites—have been classified as an essential service. As the largest hunger-relief organization in Maine, the Food Bank will remain operational throughout the duration of Governor Mills’ Stay Healthy at Home Mandate.

We encourage Mainers to check on their neighbors and vulnerable community members to ensure they have a plan for accessing food, medicine, and other supplies. You can also ask our agency partners in your community what their critical needs are right now. Visit the “Find Food” section of our website to find a local resource, and be sure to check our continually updated list of food pantry updates and closures.

Please consider making a gift to support our COVID-19 response.
#MainersHelpingMainers makes all the difference.

An Update about Good Shepherd Food Bank’s Response to COVID-19

When our neighbors are struggling, Good Shepherd Food Bank is there—every day of the year—and we’ve been here for nearly 40 years. But, like you, we’ve never seen times quite like these.

The Food Bank is projecting that food insecurity in Maine could increase by as much 39 percent in 2020 due to COVID-19, depending on the sustained growth in rates of unemployment and poverty. This could mean as many as 240,000 Mainers will be struggling with hunger. The 25 million meals we’ve been distributing annually will not be enough.

As the impacts of COVID-19 grip our state, Good Shepherd Food Bank is channeling all of its efforts to be a resource for the state of Maine in these unprecedented times.

We estimate that $6.3M in additional resources will be needed over a six-month period to help Mainers struggling with hunger as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This represents a 150% increase to the baseline six-month operating costs.

Thankfully, individuals, foundations, and businesses are stepping forward to help. As of April 22, we’ve raised approximately $3.5M toward our need of $6.3M. Mainers need our support now, and you can help.

Our response

Good Shepherd Food Bank (GSFB) is the largest hunger-relief organization in Maine. We are channeling all of its efforts to be a resource for the state of Maine, including expanding hours of operations and reallocating internal resources for planning, preparation, and response. We are committed to working with national, state, and local partners to deliver critical services that ensure that Mainers have access to food.

We’re still distributing healthy food via our partner hunger-relief agencies. Following CDC guidelines, we have implemented workplace safety mechanisms to keep our dedicated staff members safe, and we’re serving as a resource to our network of food pantries, meal sites, and schools by sharing CDC guidelines and recommending low-contact methods of distribution.

We’re staying on top of the changing landscape by convening an internal COVID-19 Response Team that meets daily to assess the situation and make key decisions. We collaborate closely with state and county agencies and stay connected with Feeding America to learn from the responses of food banks in other states.

We are taking action

Our Food Bank is meeting evolving needs head-on, shifting our food sourcing and distribution to keep as much nutritious food flowing as possible statewide. We are packing emergency food boxes that can be distributed through grab-and-go or drive-up methods throughout the state, relieving the pressure and burden that our partner food pantries are experiencing. The Food Bank has partnered with L.L.Bean to help us pack boxes of shelf-stable foods and they’re ramping up to pack up to 10,000 boxes per week.

We are securing more food. Food donations from retailers generally account for 70% of the food we distribute—we are expecting that number to diminish substantially. To date, we have placed orders of shelf-stable food totaling more than $2M, as well as crops from Maine farmers—such as potatoes and apples. We are also working with the Maine Department of Agriculture to capitalize on increased flexibility in federal food.

We are regularly surveying food pantries, meal sites, schools, and other hunger relief partners to understand the challenges they are facing and any gaps in service. Surveys are continually being used to assess community need and help inform increased and/or emergency response. Our most recent survey indicated that 90 percent of the food pantries we serve are seeing an increase in people seeking help. Those same pantries are also experiencing a decline in volunteers because so many are senior citizens and school or corporate groups. The needs and challenges are staggering.

How you can help:

We encourage Mainers to check on their neighbors and vulnerable community members to ensure they have a plan for accessing food, medicine, and other supplies. Should Mainers need help securing food, visit the “Find Food” section of our website to find a local resource.

We are also seeking increased and flexible funding to meet the needs of all Mainers who are struggling—children, seniors, families, and individuals who are most at-risk. Our response will serve all communities and will be coordinated with local partners and resources with the greatest level of efficiency possible.

Funds donated to support our COVID-19 response will be used for immediate needs and will help the Food Bank and its hunger-relief partners provide essential support in the months to come as we all recover from the economic impacts of this crisis. Our estimated COVID-related direct expenses through June are exceeding $6 million.

Your donations are needed to help:

  • Purchase food and distribute it at no cost to ensure supply in a time when food donations are lagging demand. The majority of pantries have moved to distributing our pre-packed food boxes, meant to help families stretch their food budget for one month. With food costs of $38 per box, this food represents the bulk of the Food Bank’s unanticipated expenses.
  • Hire temporary staff to work in our warehouses and support our essential employees with hazard pay.
  • Support our food pantries and other hunger-relief partners with grants to help them cover their emergency operating expenses.

Our neighbors need us now—please donate to our COVID-19 response today.

 

Partner Agencies:

Our agency and program partners are the backbones of Maine’s hunger-relief system. We all must be operational and ready to act, especially when our state may be facing extra challenges. Please scroll down for updates from our partner agencies.

What You Can Do Now

  • You and your staff/volunteers should be practicing preventative techniques (see these recommendations from the National Center for Disease Control).
  • You can stay up-to-date on news specific to COVID-19 in Maine through the Maine CDC website.
  • Take this available time to prepare your agency, volunteers, and community members in case of a health emergency.
    • 2-1-1 is able to answer general questions about COVID-19. (You can read the news announcement HERE.) Patrons can dial 2-1-1 from any phone any time of the day, and a call specialist will be able to answer their general questions. This is an especially helpful option for patrons who do not have internet access.
  • Please give us a snapshot of how COVID-19 has affected you: Feeding America Survey. As our country feels the effects of COVID-19/coronavirus, we would like to understand its impact on you and your family. Would you be willing to answer three short questions? Your responses will help us locally and nationally to monitor the situation as it evolves and secure critical funding that will help us get food to people who need it most. https://bit.ly/gsfbsurvey

  • Share the following webpage with your clients: https://mailchi.mp/gsfb.org/boxtips. Cooking Matters Maine, a program of Good Shepherd Food Bank, has created this page specifically for the pre-packed boxes. The page features cooking demonstration videos and recipes using ingredients found in the boxes.
  • Food Safety Q&A presented by Kathy Savoie and colleagues from UMaine Cooperative Extension
  • Need food? SNAP may be able to help – a resource from Maine Equal Justice.

Planning Ahead
Having an emergency response plan is, and always has been, important – for bad weather, an unforeseen power outage, a disaster at your site (fire, flood), or any event that impacts your community or agency. While you have time now, consider how you would be able to continue to provide assistance to your community in an emergency.

  • Here are a few ideas in the case of a health emergency, and we’d appreciate hearing about any other strategies you can think of:
    Patrons may need to send a friend or neighbor to your pantry or program for help. If you do not have a “proxy pick-up” system, you may want to consider making this available to community members who are sick or are advised to avoid public places due to an underlying health condition that makes them vulnerable. You can print menus or provide information over the phone in order to allow some customization of food boxes.
  • For pantries with the ability, a safe parking lot, and volunteers to assemble pre-made boxes, you may want to consider a drive-through distribution system for the short-term where patrons can stay in their cars and food can be placed in their cars. This allows you to continue to serve community members but create some distance between volunteers and patrons and patrons from one another.
  • Food pantries may also want to consider temporarily extending your hours and creating appointments in order to reduce the number of people at the pantry at any one time.
  • Meal programs may want to consider allowing friends/neighbors to pick up for homebound patrons and/or providing bagged meals for taking away, rather than sit-down meals, to reduce the amount of time guests have contact with one another and with volunteers/staff.

Please be in touch with any questions or concerns, especially if you think you will need to change your distribution times or style. Your Community Resources Representative is available to provide resources.

Resources from Cooking Matters Maine:

  • Cooking Matters Maine, a program of Good Shepherd Food Bank, has created a page of cooking demonstration videos and recipes using ingredients found in the pre-packed boxes. https://mailchi.mp/gsfb.org/boxtips
  • Free download of “Cooking Matters at Home” is now available at the link below. This is an incredible resource full of ideas for how families can use what foods are available to create quick, family-friendly, low-cost meals, like a Step-by-Step Pasta Dinner with plenty of substitutions to play around with.

Volunteers:

Our distribution centers are open, and we’re taking precautions above and beyond those recommended by the CDC to be sure that we’re providing a safe working environment. The Food Bank could use your help now more than ever as we prepare for an increase in demand. If you experience symptoms of the virus or have been in contact with an individual who experiences symptoms of this virus, we ask that you refrain from volunteering for a period of 14 days.

Please visit our volunteer page or contact Beth Tatro, volunteer manager, (207) 782-3554 ext. 1169 or btatro@gsfb.org.

Clients Needing Food Assistance:

If you need food assistance, visit Food Pantry Closing and Changes.

Helpful Links:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Maine-specific Coronavirus Webpage
Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC)

COVID-19 Coverage Information for Uninsured Individuals and Emergency MaineCare
Maine Schools Providing Meals to Students During Closures
Maine Council on Aging’s Volunteer Guidance on Safe Deliveries
New Mainers List of Community Resources

Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has developed interim guidelines to help answer owner and employee questions about essential agriculture, horticulture, and animal care operations

Maine Equal Justice is providing regular updates and resources to help people understand what government programs they may be eligible for and how to apply: https://maineequaljustice.org/people/covid-19-resources

In Maine? Call 211 for up-to-date information.

Contacts:

Director of Facilities and Safety: Sam Michaud, smichaud@gsfb.org or 207-576-2023

Fundraising Contact: Erin Fogg, efogg@gsfb.org or 207-240-3029

Partner Agencies: Kathy Helming, VP of Community Partnerships, khelming@gsfb.org or 207-782-3554 ext. 1119

Media: Jessica Donahue, marketing and communications manager, jdonahue@gsfb.org or 207-991-7630