ELLSWORTH, Maine — Downeast Community Partners (DCP), a nonprofit organization based in Ellsworth and Machias, will soon be able to offer produce out of its food pantry to better support families in need in Washington and Hancock counties. Good Shepherd Food Bank granted DCP's Nutritional Services $15,800 for capacity building. Managers said that money will be put toward refrigeration.
Heather Barton-Lindloff, Nutritional Services manager, said, "It is going to allow us to install commercial refrigeration, which in turn will let us be able to provide fresh foods such as milk, cheese, and other dairy options as well as fresh produce to our clients which we previously had not been able to do.”
Barton-Lindloff added the refrigeration will allow them to provide more complete meals.
“This is awesome for the people of these two counties because they are going to be able to get fresh foods and the produce which will supplement their diets in a more healthy way than just having stable foods," she said. "For example, if we do pasta and tomato sauce, now that we have refrigeration we would be able to add stuff to include a salad with that meal, as well as milk, which is very important for children."
DCP first opened three centers in May of 2020, but has since expanded its services as the COVID-19 pandemic created a greater need for the resources it offers. The program expanded to include more services that help children under 18, as well as an option for older adults in the community.
The pantries currently deliver food to families in need, but organizers say Good Shepherd Food Bank’s donation also allows Nutritional Services to expand shelving, allowing the pantries to store more food on-site. It also increases food choices for pantry patrons.
The award also provides funding to purchase foods. The program is seeking out partnerships with local farms in the hopes of supporting the local economy while providing fresh food options. Additionally, in an effort to reduce waste, both pantries will begin to shift to a client-choice model. Client-choice means that families choose what they take home, based on their individual cooking ability and personal tastes.
"Our hope is as COVID-19 dissipates, that our families will be able to come to the food pantry itself to come in and walk through and pick the foods that they would like to take home,” Barton-Lindloff said.