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Waldo County food pantries get extra refrigeration, freezer space

The storage units were made possible through a Good Shepherd Food Bank $60,000 donation to the Belfast Soup Kitchen.

BELFAST, Maine — Many food pantries struggle with a lack of space to store goods and supplies. But now, thanks to the work of one food pantry, a number of them in Waldo County have access to two new freezer and refrigeration storage units. 

The Belfast Soup Kitchen received a $60,000 capacity-building grant from the Good Shepherd Food Bank. In partnership with the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency and Waldo County Technical Center, they were able to make it happen. 

The units are located behind the Waldo County Technical Center. Cherie Merrill, executive director of the Belfast Soup Kitchen, said her soup kitchen, along with eight other food pantries in the county, are using these storage units.

"I knew there was a need for mass storage for the pantries in Waldo County, and then when the pandemic came, that need was tenfold," Merrill said.

One of the food pantries utilizing this space is The Kindness Program based in Searsport. Jayne Snowdale is executive director of the pantry.

"This is a big help to all the pantries because we all suffer from the same thing. Sometimes we can get stuff, but where do you put it?" Snowdale said.

Judy Staples also works for The Kindness Program. She said their seven freezers still aren't enough space for their shipments.

"We put out about 250 cooked meals a week [and] frozen [meals], so that takes up a lot of freezer space," Staples said.

One unit is being used as a shared freezer storage space for the pantries, while the other serves another purpose.

"We also are filling one of the units with 19,381 pounds of potato product that [Penobscot] McCrum donated after the fire," Merrill said.

All the pantries also have access to these products to take what they need and distribute to their communities. The pantry workers said they couldn't be more grateful.

"Have you ever tried to mash potatoes for 250 people? That's a lot of mashed potatoes," Snowdale said.

Snowdale said now they have all the mashed potatoes they need, which saves them time with only one day to prepare meals each week.

The Good Shepherd Food Bank appreciates seeing its funds put to good use.

"We want to be able to get as much food to people as we can, and so this is an opportunity to increase the access for everyone in the area," Mary Turner, community resource representative for the Good Shepherd Food Bank, said.

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