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Feed Maine: Taking what she needs, giving all she can

A Bangor woman is expressing gratitude to her local food pantry for providing her with fresh produce through her culinary skills.

BANGOR, Maine — When you don't have a big food budget, accessing fresh healthy produce can be really difficult.

That's why when a Bangor woman found a local food pantry that was distributing fresh fruits and vegetables, she was extremely grateful and showed her gratitude in a creative and culinary way. 

Nancy Hill visited the Bangor Health Equity Alliance food pantry for the first time in the summer of 2018 after friends of hers told her the pantry had no barriers to who could access it, and it provided fresh produce. 

One week late that summer, the pantry had several tomatoes left in its pantry. Worried they would go to waste, the workers insisted Nancy took them home.

Nancy remembers the moment, "There were so many tomatoes left by the weekend and they said, Nancy if you don't take them, they're going to rot!"

So Nancy took them home, but rather than keep them all for herself, she added some love and gave them right back.

"I made a homemade spaghetti sauce and I'd bring it in for the clients and the staff!"

This has become somewhat a routine for Nancy. 

"When fall came and apples came out, I made my grammy's recipe of apple crisp and then brought it back here."

Although she admits the routine started because she felt guilty that she was taking from the pantry without giving anything back, it stuck because --as someone in long-time addiction recovery-- she is a true believer in the work being done at Health Equity Alliance. 

Nancy says, "The harm reduction here, it gives people a chance!"

In addition to its food pantry, Health Equity Alliance provides health and drug addiction services, specifically targeting groups that are often underserved. 

The Director of Development and Communications Andrea Littlefield says, "We work with people that when they access services in the community they face a lot of stigmas, so we work with people who use drugs, people with HIV and AIDS, people in the LGBTQ community."

The organization believes food should be accessible to all, regardless of if they're using drugs. 

Littlefield says no drug users story is black and white, and with so many obstacles in their path already, she doesn't believe finding food should be another. 

"We don't have any barriers for who can use our food pantry," says Littlefield.

Nancy, now 36 years sober and a sponsor to several addicts, doesn't just share apple crisp at the center. She also sits down with people and shares her wisdom. 

She says that she gets a lot out of all of her giving.  

"Every time I do those things, I have so much fun doing it because it's so much easier to give than to receive!"