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'Cooking for Community' expands to midcoast Maine

Four restaurants in Rockland and Camden are turning out hundreds of meals for people facing food insecurity

ROCKLAND, Maine — It started during the pandemic as a way to help restaurants survive and feed Mainers facing food insecurity. Now, nearly a year later, the nonprofit 'Cooking for Community' has delivered more than 100,000 meals and recently expanded into midcoast Maine, thanks to a new partnership.

Before the pandemic, "supper night" was the heart and soul of the Landing Place, a youth program for at-risk kids and teens. 

"We'd set the tables up and we'd have 40 to 50 youth having supper altogether," Joseph Hufnagel, director of The Landing Place, said.

With the building closed, ready-to-eat meals are now being delivered to their families throughout Knox County. They are just some of the dozens of healthy meals prepared weekly by Chef Kerry Altiero and his staff, Amanda Duckworth and Barbara Shay, at Cafe Miranda in Rockland. 

The eatery has been serving up comfort food with a side of love for almost thirty years.  As part of Cooking for Community, Cafe Miranda and three other midcoast restaurants are turning out 300 nutritious meals every week. 

The meals are being provided to six service agencies, including two food pantries. In turn, struggling restaurants get some much-needed cash flow. 

"A lot of my colleagues, their dreams are dying, they are not going to make it. I feel lucky to have this opportunity," Altiero, who owns Cafe Miranda, said.

The nonprofit started in the early days of the pandemic. It has grown to more than a dozen participating restaurants in four areas of the state. Hannaford Supermarkets donated nearly $70,000 to help expand the program to midcoast Maine.

Ellie Linen Low, a founding member of Cooking for Community, said the nonprofit can scale back as the summer tourist season is expected to bring a big boost to the restaurant industry.

"Either slow down and raise money to support restaurants in the fall and winter, we still don't known what the pandemic is going to do," she said.