Thursday, April 26, 2018

Agency Spotlight – Waterville Food Bank

Having access to reliable transportation is a major factor that food pantries and other programs addressing food insecurity must think about. Many times donations and grants are restricted to the purchase of food or other items, and transportation expenses may exceed what is available through typical fundraising. Despite this challenge, we see success across the network in getting this critical need met.

The Waterville Food Bank was able to fundraise for a new van a couple years ago. We asked them to share their experience and fundraising plans:

Q: What were your fundraising strategies for getting your van? How long did it take you to raise enough money?

A: Our fundraising strategies for getting the van started when a donor organization asked us what we needed from them to help us.  The Waterville Women's Club Contemporary Group had been volunteering at the food bank as a group for about six months when they approached us.  This was shortly after we started doing retail store pickup.  We told them we wanted to purchase a van to cut down on the wear and tear on volunteer vehicles and more safely transport the food which was often being transported in open pickup trucks.  It was also somewhat of an ergonomic nightmare for our largely older volunteer base to load and unload those vehicles. 

One of our younger board members suggested that we create a Go Fund Me page and we then launched our Van-quish Hunger Campaign.  We created a specific brochure for the campaign explaining what we do and why we needed a commercial delivery vehicle.  We offered 20 Logo Level Sponsors a prominent display of their logo on the van in return for a donation of $500 or more.  We took out a small loan with very favorable terms from a local bank which had already given us $1,000.  We paid off the loan six months later.

We felt so good about not having to pay excise tax on the van every year that we purchased a vanity plate "NOHNGR".  This was partially because we thought it might take a while to get the van signage and wanted to identify it somehow.  Around this same time we decided to get a new logo for the Food Bank and the van.

Q: How has the van increased your healthy options for patrons?

A: The van has ensured that the retail pickup food is transported in a food safe manner.  It was hard to wrap food in blankets when you are driving open back pickup trucks.

Q: How was the van helped with volunteer workload?

A: The van has helped the volunteers in several respects.  It provides us with a sense of pride and identity.  We really don't own much of anything and are fortunate to live in a rent free space, so aside from freezers, refrigerators and U-boats we don't own much.

The van has excellent ergonomic value.  It is fairly low to the ground and has lots of head room.  You can walk upright in the van even if you are over 6' 2".  Senior citizens lifting 30 to 50 pound banana boxes while bent over did not seem like a good idea.  We frequently deliver fresh food to other members of Good Shepherd Food Bank in Waterville and the van sees lots of use and exposure through those deliveries.

Q: How many households and individuals are you currently serving?

A: Last year we served 790 unique families.  Some of those families come to us as often as every 14 days.  Some come less frequently.

  The Waterville Food Bank is open Monday – Thursday, serving Waterville and surrounding towns. A vital hunger relief organization in their community and a valued partner of Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Agency Services Updates

This section of the newsletter gives you important updates from our team. As always, please reach out to your local field representative, or anyone on our team with any questions.

  • Donations made to your agency. Here at Good Shepherd Food Bank, we sometimes receive donations on behalf of your agency, which we deposit into your account to help cover your shared maintenance fees and purchased food costs. We have historically sent e-mails to alert you to the funds. Going forward we will instead ask that you review your donations monthly when reviewing your statement. Your donations/grants balance can be viewed online in your GSFB account, or within your monthly generated e-statement. To access your Statements and other information online, please follow this guidance document.  As always, should there be a need for help in finding that information, you can always reach out to the Agency Services team!

  • Food Safety Training. Several of you have asked when we will be offering a new round of food safety trainings. Please see the article in this issue about our new food safety training toolkit, and be on the lookout for an email to your program in mid-May with details about where to find the toolkit and how to complete the new training. Included in the mid-May communication will be details about how often your program needs to receive training and who needs to be trained.

  • Product Availability Information. When you log in to place your order through our online ordering portal, you’ve likely noticed there are announcements listed that change from time to time. We have recently begun using this space to list updates about products that are out of stock with our expected inventory replenishment date. Other important product or closure reminders are also listed here. Please take a look through these announcements when you are placing your agency’s order online.

  • 2018 Holiday and Inventory Calendar: Click here

New Food Safety Training Toolkit Available to Pantries

Good Shepherd Food Bank has created Food Safety Training (FST) videos similar to the presentations made to pantries three years ago. These videos, along with links to other helpful FST content, will be posted to our website soon!

There is also a test that allows those completing the training to demonstrate they understand key ideas about food safety. Once the test is completed, incorrect answers are highlighted and correct answers provided. Those who pass the test will receive a certificate of completion by email right away.

It is thought that having the training and test available electronically will make it easier for partnering pantries to refresh their FST knowledge and to share this information within their organization.

Starting in mid-May, all partnering pantries will receive an email directing them to have at least one staff or volunteer who is actively involved in the pantry complete this training. The goal is to have every program receive a certificate by July 1, 2018.

Meal programs such as soup kitchens and shelters will need to submit documentation of training by a qualified, professional food safety training organization, such as the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Cooking for Crowds program or ServSafe’s Manager Training.

Our plan is to update training content every several years and have all partners go through a round of recertification to ensure that the network has a strong awareness of food safety best practices.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Advocacy Updates

Farm Bill proposal released – House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway’s (R-TX) released a draft farm bill on April 12. The bill contains many proposals that would further restrict eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and subject additional people to harsh time limits. The proposals in this bill would lead to greater hunger and poverty among all types of beneficiary families, including the working poor, as well as reduced economic activity in communities across the country. The Committee plans to mark up the bill on April 18. You can learn more here.

State legislative session draws to a close – State legislators are finishing work on the 128th legislative session. Good Shepherd Food Bank has been working on LD 173, An Act to Reduce Food Insecurity, which is currently on the Special Appropriations Table. We will continue to try to find funding for our collective statewide hunger relief work and will have an update on the fate of this bill after the legislature adjourns.

For more information about our advocacy efforts, please contact Clara McConnell, Director of Public Affairs, at

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Getting Started with Gardening

It may be difficult to think spring with snow on the ground but this is the perfect time to start your garden. It is best to start growing your seeds indoors about 6-8 week before the last frost, which in Maine is usually the last week of May. Starting seeds indoors will give you a head start on your garden.   It will allow more time to grow your plants which means more fresh fruits and vegetables through the season. Plants that are started indoors early have a better chance of surviving outside once transplanted.

If you are worried about having too many plants or not using all the seeds in a package you can share with family, friends or neighbors. Also, you don’t need a lot of space to have a home garden. When transplanting seedlings, they can go into the ground or into a large pot to add color and decoration to your porch or yard.

Some benefits of a home garden include:
  • Fresh produce just outside your door, you don’t have to go to the store to get it
  • Saves money because you are not paying for someone to pick, pack and ship your produce
  • Gardening can be fun for everyone; kids learn how things grow and help pick what they have grown
  • It allows for time outside and keeps everyone moving.

    To help you and your program’s patrons get started, print and share this
    one-page guide for using Egg Carton Seed Starters. Printable PDF

Partner Agency Survey Results

In this issue, we will share an overview of the responses from the “Service Information” section of the 2017 Partner Agency Survey Results. If you missed the last issue with the introduction and “Getting to Know You and Your Program” section of the survey, no need to worry. You can get caught up here!
The “Service Information” section is filled with a wealth of valuable information. To be sure we have covered it all, you will find part II of this section in the Summer 2018 issue of our newsletter. Stay tuned!

Of the 162 agencies who completed the survey:
Almost a quarter reported being open once a week. Another 18% of agencies reported being open 2 to 3 times per week. 

Of the survey respondents, 38% said patrons can access their services once per month, while 21% of respondents said patrons can come as often as they are open. Many respondents indicated “other” and said in addition to monthly staples, patrons can also come weekly for a produce distribution or that they are available as needed for patrons.

The winter and fall seasons are the busiest for our partners with November through January being the busiest. 

Three quarters of the agencies are able to track unduplicated services or their numbers are naturally unduplicated. 

Survey respondents reported on frequency of after-hours requests for food. 33% receive requests once per month or less and 29% said they receive requests 2 to 3 times per month. The majority of after-hours requests come in on the weekends.

More than half of agencies who responded to this survey offer a client choice model. Another 17% offer their patrons a “virtual choice” with a menu to choose from.

The majority of agencies who offer pre-boxed or pre-bagged items also offer some types of products where patrons can take as much as they need. Two thirds of agencies tailor boxes to household needs based on children, dietary restrictions, etc. and more than half invite patrons to request items they do not typically receive in their pre-packed box or bag.   

Is Your Program Listed on 2-1-1?

211 is a free, confidential information and referral service that connects people of all ages across Maine to local services. 211 Maine is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by phone (just dial 211 to connect), text, email, and searchable online database.

Making certain that your food pantry, meal site, or shelter information is available on 211, and that it stays updated, is a great way to ensure people can find your program and the services you offer. It is also a great resources for connecting your patrons to the other services they may need, such as clothing, housing, and transportation.

You can go to to verify that your program is listed in their directory.

If you are interested in adding your organization to the resource directory, you can contact the Resource Department at (207)221-8150 or if you prefer to do it online, you can complete the form on this page.
To make changes or updates to existing listings, please contact Mary Jo, Resource Coordinator at (201)221-8160.

GSFB Network is a blog for partner agencies of Good Shepherd Food Bank focused on feeding Maine's hungry.