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Stories from the Road – Old Orchard Beach Community

Nestled in the state’s southern coastal region, Old Orchard Beach (OOB) is known for its seven-mile beach and busy downtown filled with restaurants, shops, ice cream parlors, and an amusement park. Among the beachgoers and tourists, the town of OOB is like many quaint coastal towns in Maine with a population that thrives in the summer months but experiences quiet off-seasons.

According to Feeding America, the food insecurity rate in York County, where OOB is located, is 8.9 percent [1], which means about 18,800 people living in the area don’t have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food. And nearly half, forty-nine percent, of people in York County are below the threshold for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition programs. [1] Based on 2021 Feeding America data.

One of the three Old Orchard Beach-based food pantry partners is the Salvation Army – OOB. This smaller pantry meets the most urgent needs of neighbors in the area and operates by appointment only. Neighbors are offered a variety of services including meals, clothing, fuel and energy assistance, personal hygiene kits, medical needs, and connections with other beneficial services that are offered through other organizations.

On our visit, we met with our pantry contact, Alyssa. Each day, she helps provide neighbors with shelf-stable food and fresh produce, offering each neighbor who makes an appointment to visit the panty their choice of food. Alyssa sees many Mainers, primarily families, single moms, and the unhoused. “It’s great that the Food Bank also offers culturally relevant food. Our New Mainer neighbors are always excited to see halal options.” Along with the pantry, the Salvation Army – OOB serves between 4,000 and 4,500 meals each year through their free community lunch program that provides a nutritional meal and a social experience every Tuesday and Friday.

Lyman has been the chef at the pantry for two years and is responsible for every community lunch. He prides himself on always crafting up something different. “Not one meal has been the same. I try to keep it creative.” On the day we visited, he was making a family recipe that his mom used to make him as a kid. “Today’s meal is teenage burgers that my mom used to make. It’s a lot like sloppy joes but with different seasonings.” Lyman shared that cooking for neighbors is one of his passions, “This is something I love to do, and I grew up in the kitchen. We are blessed to partner with Good Shepherd Food Bank and wouldn’t have these community meals without our partnership. I enjoy seeing the reactions to the food and the sense of community when people gather around sharing a meal.”

When the meal of teenage burgers, fruit salad, and dessert was served, we met with a few neighbors visiting for a meal that day. Nancy, an expecting mother with her small pup Cash, shared, “I come here because I like seeing my friends.” She has visited the pantry for ten years and continues to look forward to the gatherings each week. We also met Sarah, who will soon be moving into permanent housing in Westbrook. “I have been coming here for years, and they are like family here. I have a lot of social anxiety, and they arranged for me to have my meals to go. After years of to-go meals, they helped me work up the courage to share a meal with others. Now, because of them, I come in and sit with others. I am excited about my new housing but sad that I will no longer be close to OOB. It’s a scary thought, but I am welcoming the change. I cannot express enough how much they’ve done for me; they do much for the community. It’s amazing to see what they accomplish here.”

The Salvation Army – OOB is by appointment only, supplying free fresh produce, canned goods, and healthy frozen items. Their pantry provides valuable meal supplementation while helping neighbors maintain independence and dignity.

Good Shepherd Food Bank works in partnership with over 600 hunger-relief organizations, located from Kittery to Fort Kent, to help distribute food to Mainers facing hunger. Our network of partner agencies includes food pantries, meal sites, senior centers, school programs, and healthcare facilities.

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.