HANCOCK COUNTY, Maine — The Hancock County Food Drive is back this month to raise money and collect food donations for those who can't afford it.
Administrators for the county-wide drive acknowledge there's more of a need now than ever before.
"Last year was our busiest year ever. I'm pretty sure we're going to beat it this year," Tom Reeve, executive director at the Bar Harbor Food Pantry, said.
In 2023, inflation and rising food prices have driven up the demand for help, Rachel Emus, Hancock County's food programs manager explained.
"Snap benefits had increased during the pandemic, and that pandemic-related funding ended in March. As soon as that happened, the food pantries that we worked with saw as much as, you know, double the number of shoppers."
Reeve reported that there is an uptick in shoppers in his community who are seasonal migrant workers from Latin America and the Caribbean.
"We broke records. I mean inflation, gas prices all affected the number of people coming, but also we had all the summer workers back."
Max Dietshe, communications director for the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in Ellsworth, can also attest to the spike.
"We have clients from 33 of the 37 Hancock Towns and 29 towns outside the county," he said.
Dietshe added keeping operations running at the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry costs $1,000 per day.
"We get no government assistance at the federal, state level. We are entirely funded by the community. It’s a true countywide network," he said.
Pantries across Hancock County must fundraise to stay afloat. The county-wide food drive, now in its 12th year, is just one way to do so.
Emus explained why the county-wide food drive happens this time of year.
"It's always organized in the spring because this tends to be the time of year when our partners see more shoppers."
The goal for the drive this year, on top of collecting food, is to raise $50,000 for participating food pantries and meal programs.
Dietshe is optimistic, saying he believes in the power of community.
"Although we do have to raise this money, the good news is that this is a very generous community ... and there are a lot of divisions in the community, but when it comes to keeping our neighbors fed, the community comes together."
The food drive runs through the month of April.
For ways on how to contribute, visit the Hancock County Food Drive website.