Every month, the Mission’s food pantry welcomes hundreds of people through its doors and volunteers and staff make deliveries to seniors and others who cannot come to the pantry. In 2022, the Mission provided more than 200,000 pounds of food to people living in Washington County. But where does all that food come from? Around 90% of the food comes from Good Shepherd Food Bank. Good Shepherd works with the national organization Feeding America to provide food to pantries, like the Mission’s food pantry.
Though the food the Mission receives differs from week to week, Downeast Director Jenny Jones says. “The Mission tries hard to have the basics for households as much as we can: some fruit, veggies, milk, eggs, meat, and other protein sources. We also try to order the products from Good Shepherd that our customers like and request.”
Through the retail pick-up program facilitated by Good Shepherd, the Mission makes weekly visits to Walmart and Shaw’s in Ellsworth and BaySide Shop ‘n Save Supermarket in Milbridge. The stores donate unsold food and the Mission picks up that food. Volunteers and staff sort through all this food and decide what is usable. They often sort out spoiled produce that can be composted or donated to farmers for their animals. The food that is on the shelves on Tuesday morning when the pantry opens commonly comes from this delivery and includes bread, pastries, and produce. If a particular brand allows the store to donate products, the pantry will sometimes receive yogurt, milk, eggs, and dried goods, but those items are available less frequently.
The Mission also receives food from The Emergency Food Assistant Program (TEFAP) through a monthly delivery from Good Shepherd. This is federal program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). TEFAP provides the pantry with fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, milk and cheese, and whole-grain and enriched grain products including rice, cereal, and pasta.
To supplement the produce the pantry receives from supermarkets, the Mission works with Folklore Farm in Cherryfield as part of Good Shepherd’s “Mainers Helping Mainers” initiative. Good Shepherd develops purchase agreements with the farm, committing to buying certain crops that are given directly to the pantry.
To fill in any gaps, the pantry is also able to purchase certain items through Good Shepherd but what they can purchase is contingent on what suppliers have available.
This is where donations from community members fill in the gaps. Food products include jelly, jam, macaroni and cheese, soup, canned tuna, coffee, tea, and cereal are always popular items that people always want from the pantry. Some, like jam and jelly, are impossible to order from Good Shepherd. Other items that are often needed include diapers, shampoo, conditioner, soap, toilet paper, trash bags, cleaning products, and other personal care items. If you would like to donate to the pantry, the pantry is open every Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.