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COVID-19 causes spike in number of Mainers turning to food pantries for help

The Maine Seacoast Mission Family Food Center in Cherryfield is geared up to help everybody living in coastal Washington County.

CHERRYFIELD, Maine — Hunger across Maine is going up by the day. According to the Good Shepherd Food Bank, Sagadahoc, York, Cumberland, and Knox counties are projected to see the greatest increase in the number of people struggling with hunger. Piscataquis, Somerset, Aroostook and Washington counties will see less of an increase, but will still rank as being the hungriest counties.

The Maine Seacoast Mission Family Food Center in Cherryfield has a food pantry that serves community members from Columbia Falls to Steuben along Route 1 corridor and from Addison to Debois.

Credit: NCM

Families are able to order food boxes once a week, each one filled with essentials that many are finding difficult to buy during the pandemic.

"When the state shut down we saw a huge increase in the number of people, calling and requesting food, it was about a 50 percent increase," said Wendy Harrington, the Director of Service Programs at Maine Seacoast Mission.

Luckily, the Maine Seacoast Mission Family Food Center in Cherryfield is geared up to help, "anybody and everybody, if you are in need of a box we are here to serve you," said Meghan Smith, the Community Resource Coordinator at Maine Seacoast Mission.

According to Harrington people are always looking to get meats and fresh produce. "These are things that are very high value, and in order to continue to have a well-balanced diet, we are able to help with that," said Harrington.

"People have seen the sign as they go by, and have come in and say 'You know I just lost my job due to COVID...can I get a box," said Smith.

Besides having the Food pantry available for everyone and anyone, they have more food security programs in place. Including, preparing weekly summer meals for children, and a weekend backpack program. All in an effort to help fight hunger and for people to have access to healthy and nutritious meals.

"We are doing delivery of bulk meals to 84 children, every week, and that includes breakfast and lunch," said Harrington.

Harrington says COVID-19 has caused a 50 percent spike in the number of people turning to the Mission food pantry for help. "To meet the need, we recruited staff from other Mission programs which were on hold because of COVID-19," said Harrington. "Mission staff, including EdGE instructors, and volunteers stepped up to fill the need at the pantry."

Nowadays, because of the ongoing pandemic food pantry customers are served by a new drive-through system. It includes an online food order form and the ability to call in food orders before pick-up. Volunteers box them up and then place the boxes in cars as customers move along the drive-through.

The Mission also increased food deliveries to people unable to get to the food pantry, those who can't drive to Cherryfield can also request delivery.

You can find more information about the Maine Seacoast MIssion's food security programs here.

The Mission food pantry also teamed with Folklore Farm in Milbridge to provide local produce. 

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