BURLINGTON, Maine — We all know how difficult it is to learn, work, or focus without food in our stomachs.
When the pandemic hit, the Burlington Food Pantry in Penobscot County fed as many Mainers as possible thanks to a donated piece of property and many food donations from the Good Shepherd Food Bank, local growers and farmers, supermarkets, and others.
After a year and a half, the owner of the property made new plans for the land, and the pantry had to find a new place to set up.
After more than 6 months of hard work, grant applications, and many donations, the Burlington Food Pantry has opened at a new location.
Mainers from all parts of the state—plumbers, electricians, construction companies, and a lot of volunteers—donated their time, resources, and money to help put up a brand new pantry.
It opened a few weeks ago in the heart of Burlington, right across from the town office at 1510 Long Ridge Road.
The Burlington Food Pantry serves about 300 people every other week: It opens every other Friday but you get two weeks' worth of groceries.
Maureen Bean, director of the Burlington Food Pantry, said having the new pantry up and running in just four months is a dream come true.
"Ohhhh, just pretty overwhelmed," she said. "I could never ever have imagined. When we said we needed a roof over our head, we needed a place to put the roof and this property was donated to us, and we are able to lease that, so that's been a wonderful thing. So now we have this building."
Besides serving residents of Burlington, the pantry also supports folks from Lincoln, Enfield, Lee, Howland, Grand Falls, and Lowell.
"We had two builders who said they would bring their hammers and they put together this building behind us and it is a dream come true," Bean said. "We are meeting the needs of a community that otherwise, I don't know where they would go. They would have to choose between gas and food or medicine."
"It's a godsend because we can maybe afford some once every couple of weeks, and then we have to do without for several days or a week until we can get back to where we can buy some more," said Julie Clayton, who stopped by to get some healthy food for her family.
Clayton said many of the pantries in neighboring towns have closed.
"We've been praying for another food cupboard to open," she said.
Joan Belcher is a registered nurse who visits the pantry and offers guidance and assistance about health insurance, medical questions, and more.
“I help people figure out how they can manage their health and wellness,” Belcher said.
Belcher drives two-and-a-half hours once a month to volunteer at the pantry.
"Our biggest challenge now is to support the building," Bean said. "We aren't supported by a church or the municipality. We are dependent on gifts."
The Burlington Food Pantry is open from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. every other Friday, including July 9, 16, and 30, and August 13 and 27. Everybody is welcome, no questions asked.
If you would like to make a donation to support the pantry, please click here.