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Food pantry in Winslow helps its community fight food insecurity

The food pantry opened in March of 2020 because there was a need for it in the community. That need continued to grow as the pandemic swept through Maine.

WINSLOW, Maine — The Good Shepherd Food Bank distributes food to pantries across the state of Maine that support community members. One of those pantries is the Winslow Community Cupboard.

Located next to the Winslow Congregational Church in Winslow, it's open from 8 a.m. to noon and 4 to 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays each month. Bottiglierie said volunteers also are willing to make home deliveries for people who are unable to find transportation to the pantry.

The pantry first opened its doors in March of 2020. Bruce Bottiglierie and another member of the Winslow Congregational Church opened it because they saw there was a greater need to help people facing food insecurity. Bottiglierie said the only other pantry in their community is open for one day every month for one hour, and it wasn't enough. 

Bottiglierie said he originally intended for the food cupboard to serve the greater Winslow community, but as the pandemic progressed they began helping people who needed it all over Maine. 

He said they started off serving about 40 families. Just last week the pantry served 215 families. Last month alone, they distributed 50,000 pounds of food, Bottiglierie said.  

This pantry is different from the norm, in that it caters to its clients' wants and needs, he said. In doing so, they're also limiting food waste.

"We're not just pre-boxing food and giving it to someone, because we don't know if we're handing away food or wasting food that they don't eat or they're allergic to," Bottiglierie said.

Rebecca Adam of Winslow said she became the sole provider for her family during the pandemic. She said she first learned about the Winslow Community Cupboard through a friend of hers who volunteered there.

"I really like this pantry because I don't feel like a number," Adams said.

Adams said the volunteers always make her feel welcome and comfortable, and she appreciates the quality and quantity of food she's able to bring home to her teens.

"With the price of food rising, every other time I go to the grocery store meat is more expensive, to eat healthy it costs a lot," Adams said.

Bottiglierie felt strongly about starting this pantry because he experienced food insecurity growing up in New Jersey. As the son of a single parent, he said they relied on food banks.

"I remember days of just eating one can of a vegetable as my dinner and not having anything in the pantries," Bottiglierie said.

Bottiglierie said they've nearly doubled the number of families they serve since this past December, and nearly half of them are over the age of 60.

The drive-thru operation works by having the clients first checking off what they need from a list of grocery options. Then the volunteers get to work, filling up boxes to complete their order. The boxes are then delivered to each car.

Adams said now that her children are teenagers, they care more about their image, so with the money she is able to save on buying groceries, she is able to use those funds to help them boost their closets. 

"If we can save a family $20-30 that they can put either extra in their oil tank or they can take their child out for an extra treat, then we've done our job," Bottiglierie said.

Bottiglierie said on any given Thursday they're open, they've had up to 25 volunteers helping out. He said a big part of that help comes from student volunteers at Temple Christian Academy in Waterville. Bottiglierie said the principal brings students to the pantry, and they stay for three hours to help load boxes and bring them out to the cars. 

The pantry relies strictly on donations, so any contribution helps. 

For those who need immediate food assistance, Bottiglierie said there's also a freedge, or free community fridge, located directly next to the pantry. It contains a number of food items for people to stop by and grab if they can't wait for the next Thursday the pantry opens. 

The freedge is open 3 to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday. People can also donate their food to the freedge if they don't want/need it and it hasn't expired.

Freedges are located across the globe, and there are three locations in Maine. To find the one closest to you, click here

There is also a soup kitchen open several days a week in the Winslow Congregational Church next door, known as the Stone Soup Cafe. It's open 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

To donate to the Winslow Community Cupboard, click here

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