Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Help Protect SNAP in the Farm Bill

The Farm Bill, which is reauthorized every five years, is the single largest source of federal funding for federal hunger-relief programs. In addition to setting policy for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) that put food on the table for Americans struggling with hunger, it covers a range of agriculture-related areas such as commodities, conservation, rural development, livestock, and energy.

Even as all SNAP benefits are being cut on Nov. 1, Congress is debating even bigger cuts to SNAP in the Farm Bill.  Help us urge Congress to pass a strong Farm Bill that protects SNAP and strengthens programs that help Americans struggling with hunger put food on the table.

Good Shepherd Food Bank has signed on to this letter to Congress from Feeding America, and your organization can sign on, too. Help us protect the nation's safety net by sending a strong, collective message to Congress today.

Feeding America Sign-on Letter

Love Pumpkin? Give Squash a Try!

What has more potassium than a banana, more than 200 percent of your recommended intake of vitamin A, and is rich in both fiber and beta carotene? Well that would be our plump, orange friend, the pumpkin! Pumpkins are certainly the icon of November, but you may notice that canned pumpkin is often priced higher than most other canned vegetables. Here are some options you may want to consider to help your holiday season budget.  

Try another favorite gourd, the canned squash! It’s usually found right next to the pumpkin and at about a quarter of the price. Shoppers often pass up squash as an alternative to pumpkin pie, but it’s a delicious option. You can save even more money by looking for squash in the frozen section. Simply take a package of frozen squash and simmer it on the stovetop to remove the excess liquid. For those wonderful fall spices, look to the bulk section of your supermarket, as they are often 30% less expensive than the bottled spices.

Squash Pie


3/4 cup granulated sugar or less

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 can (15 oz.) or 2 cups of frozen squash, pureed

(2) 6oz containers of Greek plain or vanilla yogurt  


Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in squash and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in yogurt.

Pour mixture into pie shell or custard cups. 

Bake in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

GSFB Auburn warehouse open November 1st from 7:30 am-12:00 pm

Over the past 2 years, Good Shepherd has striven to become more accurate in its inventory on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis with the goal of minimizing the number of days we have to be closed for inventory. Too many times an inventory day falls on a holiday weekend or on a Monday or Friday, and we know it’s a hardship for our partners to not have access to product for 3-4 days in a row. Additionally, Good Shepherd has been working to move more fresh produce through our warehouses and out to hungry people (with your help!), and having multiple closed days in a row is a barrier to making that product available when it's fresh.  This not only increases the amount of waste we have, but worse-- our partners are not able to get nutritious food to people who need it.

In 2013 Good Shepherd staff has decided on a case-by-case basis whether to close or remain open for inventory days.  We’ve been open for regular hours, with shorter hours, and  in one or two warehouses but not all three in an attempt to figure out what is the best fit for both agencies and staff. For 2014 we will publish a calendar of regular closed dates; that calendar will be available in hard copy in our warehouses as well as on our website.

For this upcoming inventory day on Friday, November 1st, Good Shepherd will be open in the Auburn warehouse only from 7:30 am until 12:00 pm.  The Biddeford and Brewer warehouses will be closed that day.

Questions?  Please reach out to your Agency Field Rep!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Important Holiday Food Update

The extra holiday food will be available for ordering online beginning the week of November 4th

In order to ensure that all food pantries receive the product reserved for them, we must wait until more of the holiday product has gone through our warehouse system. Our online ordering system pulls its numbers from our inventory; if product is in our warehouses it appears online as available product, and we can’t risk that pantries that have not yet picked up their allocation may have that product “sold out from under them.”  

Thank you for your understanding of our need to be sure all pantries have access, and I do apologize for making a promise we couldn't keep.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How Does the Government Shutdown Impact Hunger Relief Programs?

We are now in the second week of the government shutdown and impacts are being felt across the country. While we are hoping for a speedy resolution, Good Shepherd Food Bank and hunger relief organizations throughout Maine are bracing for continued gridlock and deeper impacts on our work.

The shutdown is currently affecting anti-hunger programs in the following ways:

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program, will continue as usual through October. SNAP does not have statutory authority to continue distributing benefits after October, but there are some contingency funds that could be used, if the shutdown continues.

Retailers should and will continue to accept SNAP benefits. The USDA does have resources on hand to process those benefit transactions. People can also still sign up for SNAP benefits during the shutdown. SNAP applications are processed here in Maine, so eligible clients can visit My Maine Connection to prescreen and sign up.

The Food Bank administers two USDA commodity food programs, TEFAP for low-income families and CSFP for seniors. We will not be granted additional funding during the shutdown, but existing TEFAP and CSFP inventory can be used and we will continue to distribute these products to our partner food pantries.

While the Woman, Infants and Children (WIC) program was initially thought to only have enough funds for benefits in the short term, due to a combination of a USDA contingency fund as well as careful budgeting by state WIC authorities, benefits for WIC will continue for the month of October.  USDA has no legal authority to continue providing benefits under the Women, Infants and Children program during a shutdown, but states are able, with the help of the USDA contingency fund, to have the money and legal authority to fund the assistance program for the rest of the month.

Child Nutrition
Child Nutrition Programs including the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast will continue for the immediate weeks following the government shutdown.Through a combination of federal and state carryover funds from fiscal year 2013, schools should be able to continue serving meals through October. 

For more information on USDA Food & Nutrition Services programs, you can view the FNS Shutdown Plan here: http://www.usda.gov/documents/usda-fns-shutdown-plan.pdf 

Other programs not administered through USDA, including Meals on Wheels and Head Start, also depend on federal funding and may soon start to feel the effects of the shutdown. While political brinkmanship continues in Washington, Maine's most vulnerable citizens suffer the consequences. Look for updates as the situation evolves in the coming days and weeks.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Food Supplement (SNAP) Benefits are Changing

All clients who receive Food Supplement (SNAP) benefits should have recently received information about changes to benefits that went into effect Nov 1, 2013. USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Kevin Concannon, recently published information about the changes, which can be read on the USDA blog.

Here is additional information from the Maine DHHS:

Why are benefits changing?

Benefits are changing for two reasons. First, benefits are changing due to the annual cost of living increase set by the federal government. These changes happen every year.

Second, benefits are going down because a federal law which raised Food Supplement benefits in April 2009 is expected to expire on November 1, 2013.

When are benefits changing?

On October 1, benefits may go up a little bit due to annual changes in the cost of living. On November 1, all benefits will go down.

How much are benefits going down on November 1?

Benefit amounts depend on many things, like income, household size and expenses. So it is hard to say exactly how much benefits will change. But if you live in a household of four and nothing else changes, your benefit will go down about $36 a month.

How can clients eat healthy on a low budget?

Here are some places where you can find tips to help you prepare healthy meals on a low budget:

How do I check my Food Supplement balance? 

  • Check the Food Supplement balance on your last grocery receipt. 
  • Log on to www.pinetreecard.com to set up an account and view your balance.
  • Call the toll-free number (1-800-477-7428) on the back of your EBT card.
GSFB Network is a blog for partner agencies of Good Shepherd Food Bank focused on feeding Maine's hungry.