Thursday, June 28, 2018

Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a program of the USDA that was instituted to ensure that children residing in households with lower incomes continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.

During the summer months, Good Shepherd Food Bank and many other organizations step in with programming to fill the summer meal gap that children face.

Summer 2017 SFSP sponsors provided 754,063 meals to Maine children!

To find out where these sites are located, click on the link below:

Not able to find any meal sites in your community? Contact the Department of Education to find out how you may be able to support SFSP in future years.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Fresh Produce Is Popping Up Across the Fields of Maine!

We finished the 2017 growing season with distributing more than 2 Million pounds of fresh Maine product to our food pantries across the State and we invested approximately $700,000 into the Maine Agriculture Economy.  With the new growing season right on our heels, we anticipate that we will acquire approximately 2.2 Million pounds of fresh farm products and invest approximately $750,000 into the Maine Agriculture Economy.  This coming growing season, approximately 180 of our food pantries will receive fresh farm product directly from local farms in their communities.  We anticipate that the growing season will be bountiful and we will have an abundance of fresh farm product available when our member agencies place their on-line orders.  Some pantries have already begun to see some of the early crops such as lettuce and radishes from their local farmers.  We just received a small delivery of zucchini in the warehouse which is exciting!  The season really has barely begun so don’t be discouraged if you haven’t received any fresh produce from your local farmers or through your on-line orders.  It won’t be long now!  If you have any questions about the Mainers Feeding Mainers Program, please contact Nancy Perry at or 782-3554 ext. 1109.           

Partner Agency Survey Results

In this issue, we will cover the second part of the “Service Information” section. If you missed part one of the “Service Section” in the Spring issue of our newsletter, you can easily get caught up here!

Of the 162 agencies who completed the survey:
64% of them, keep sufficient stock of food to ensure anyone coming at any time can receive food. Many agencies distribute all perishable products during their distribution, but keep a stock of non perishable items.
Q31 How does your program typically manage inventory?

Q32 How many days of food does your program strive to provide for each individual?
A quarter of the survey respondents strive to serve each person in the household 3 meals for 5 to 7 days. One third of the survey respondents give out product based on what they have available and how many patrons they anticipate serving.

Q33 How does your program get food to homebound patrons? (check all that apply)
31% of agencies have a delivery program. The majority of agencies allow another person to pick up food for a patron that is homebound.

Q34 How often are the following foods available for distribution?
The top three items survey respondents reported as always having available are meat, canned vegetables and canned fruit.

Q35 Do you feel your program…
93% of agencies feel they have a reliable source of healthy and nutritious food for their patrons.
53% of agencies feel they are able to provide sufficient food for patrons with dietary restrictions.
95% of agencies feel they are able to provide a sufficient variety of foods to their patrons.

Q36 Please indicate which of the reasons below are barriers to providing healthy foods. (check all that apply)

More than a third of responses report no barriers to providing healthy foods.

Agency Spotlight – St. Mary’s Food Pantry

As one of the largest emergency food pantries in Maine, the St. Mary's Food Pantry has been providing emergency food assistance to residents of the greater Lewiston-Auburn area for over 20 years. Located on the corner of Bates and Walnut Streets, the Food Pantry is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Lewiston across the street from Kennedy Park and serves over 1,000 people per week. The emergency food distribution provided through the Food Pantry is one key part of St. Mary’s Nutrition Center’s broader work to increase food access in Lewiston-Auburn. Given the extensive poverty and health challenges in our community, providing education and increasing food access is a critical strategy for building resiliency at an individual, family, and community level.

In 2015, St. Mary’s Food Pantry distributed 193,172 pounds of food to 22,517 children and adults living in L-A.  Last year (2017) the numbers increased by 389% and 170% respectively. A total of 831,415 pounds of food was distributed to 60,817 children and adults living in L-A.

Dedicated leaders and volunteers have contributed to the ability of the food pantry to respond to such growth and sustain and endure over time. The original coordinator of the food pantry held that position for more than 15 years, originally as an employee of Good Shepherd Food Bank! The current Food Pantry Coordinator often goes above and beyond to create a supportive and welcoming space for all guests while also thinking through and putting into practice innovative strategies to support people in meeting their food needs with dignity. The larger leadership team at the Nutrition Center has acted as a backbone and has provided much needed stability during times of transition. This team currently works closely with the Coordinator to develop systems that are both resilient and responsive to the changing and sometimes challenging needs of the many diverse communities of Lewiston.  The food pantry also has a base of committed volunteers, some who have been with the pantry for nearly a decade. In order to better support and retain volunteers, the Nutrition Center is developing systems for orientation, evaluation, and celebration of the people who give their time to help others meet their food needs.

The St. Mary’s Nutrition Center is located in an old Catholic school building. While the historic and artful architecture that includes granite entryway steps and oak paneling is beautiful, it was not designed with the needs of a food pantry in mind. In particular, without modern cooling systems integrated into the building, the room where food is stored can get quite hot.  Produce that could normally keep well at room temperature would often go bad faster and anything that was perishable would have a drastically reduced lifespan. With a focus on nutritious food, the Pantry has greatly increased the amount of fresh produce distributed, and these cold storage challenges have become even more pronounced. The additional refrigerator however, has allowed us to better store more produce and perishable items, reduce the amount of waste, and help get us get more fresh fruit and vegetables to our pantry guests.

Working in partnership with GSFB has made no small difference in the types of food we are able to bring into our community.  The increase in availability of produce through GSFB coupled with the capacity building grants we have received for the purchase of new refrigerators has allowed us to address head on the growing needs of our many communities  and increase the amount of fresh healthy food families our bringing home into their household.

Lucy, a former volunteer who became a Nutrition Center fellow and Chuck a long time and invaluable volunteer with the Pantry

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