Covid-19 Fast-Tracks Mission Family Food Center Plans

by | Jul 6, 2020 | COVID-19 Updates, Downeast Campus, Food Pantry, Maine Seacoast Mission, News, Weald Bethel Community Center

July 6, 2020

Contact – Scott K Fish, Communications and Marketing
[email protected] or 207-458-7185

CHERRYFIELD, ME — When Maine Seacoast Mission Director of Service Programs Wendy Harrington read the news about Covid-19 restrictions in March 2020, she knew it meant big changes for the Mission’s food programs Downeast. She also knew the Mission has helped communities through crises for as long as it’s been around. This latest crisis would be a chance for the Mission to help and to grow.

Months earlier, the Mission had started bringing together all its food security programs within a Family Food Center that would make it easy for families to access education, food, community, and resource support in one place. The food pantry, Downeast Table of Plenty (DETOP), Weald Bethel garden, and child/senior hunger programs would be part of an integrated continuum of services supporting family resiliency.

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

Before, customers shopped at the Mission food pantry as they would any food market. As a coronavirus defense, the pantry doors were closed to the public. Instead, customers are now served by a new drive-through system. It includes an online food order form and the ability to call in food orders to Mission staff. Customers place their orders; volunteers and staff 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, or who relied on meals served at the DETOP suppers.

As more and more people lost wages, experienced layoffs, and relied on the food pantry for daily sustenance, long-time Mission food pantry partners became even more important. Good Shepherd Food Bank, Shaw’s and Walmart in Ellsworth and government programs and private donors either provided funds to buy more food, or increased the variety and amounts of donated produce, meats, and dairy products.

The Mission’s food distribution partnership with nonprofit Mano en Mano in Milbridge also grew. The Mission worked with Mano en Mano staff to acquire and offer food staples to over 150 Latinx family households. An initial donation from McKays Public House in Bar Harbor, followed by a grant from Good Shepherd Food Bank, helped make this happen.

The Mission food pantry also teamed with Folklore Farm in Milbridge to provide local produce. Intervale Farm in Cherryfield offered dormant blueberry freezers to accommodate a large donation of fresh meats for the pantry. As a new Family Food Center initiative, also in tandem with local farmers, the Mission built and distributed 40 Gardens-in-a-Box, and 150 tomato plants in containers to local families.

The Mission Family Food Center is well underway and embracing new opportunities to strengthen community. We encourage you to watch and share our new video short depicting our work with our emerging Family Food Center programs.

Learn more about Maine Seacoast Mission’s food security programs.

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