OAKFIELD, Maine — An Oakfield food pantry is in danger of closing if it cannot find a permanent public home in one of the communities it serves by April 1.
Debbie Gray, who oversees Nature’s Bounty Food Pantry, said Friday that so far officials have had no luck finding a place.
Nature’s Bounty opened in 2004 and distributes food to residents in numerous towns around the Oakfield area. When the pantry first opened, it was located briefly in a private residence. It since has worked to find a steady home, while struggling to pay operational expenses. It moved to temporary space in a church and then to a building in town. When that building was sold, the pantry moved back to a private home on Thompson Settlement Road where it has operated for nine months.
The nonprofit organization is a member of the Good Shepherd Food-Bank based in Auburn. Along with relying on donations from the community, the pantry purchases food from Good Shepherd at low prices to stock its shelves. Good Shepherd is supplied by Feeding America, an organization that supplies food to food banks across the nation.
Gray said Friday that Good Shepherd informed her that regulations from Feeding America dictate that Nature’s Bounty no longer can be housed in a private residence if it wants to continue receiving food.
“We have to be in a building where we have the space to put the food, and we have until April 1 to do that,” she said. “We will take a building in any of the towns we serve, whether it is in Oakfield, in Island Falls, or any other town. We have looked around at vacant potato houses. We have asked around, but we have not found anyplace yet. It has been hard. Some people here have told us that no one is going hungry, which is ridiculous.
“There is so much need here,” she continued. “People are desperately in need of food. People are stopping me in Wal-Mart and making arrangements to get food. If we can’t find a home, that means we can no longer buy food from Good Shepherd. If that happens, we are out of business. There is no way we can fully operate just on donations alone.”
Calls to Good Shepherd had not been returned Friday afternoon.
Nature’s Bounty has worked hard to overcome obstacles in recent months. Besides looking for permanent housing, the pantry was combating rumors in December that it had closed.
Anyone with an idea for a location for the pantry can contact Gray at 521-4239 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.