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

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