ORONO, Maine — More than 13 percent of Maine households —the equivalent of more than 175,000 people — are not consistently able to have access to an adequate supply of healthful food, according to officials from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank.
Residents affected by hunger report being forced to choose between buying food or paying for other basics, including rent, fuel and medicine. The problem exists throughout the state and affects not only the poor, but also working- and middle-class people.
That’s why the Auburn-based organization, which provides food for an estimated 600 member agencies from Fort Kent to Kittery, is turning to the state’s movers and shakers for help, Christine Force, Good Shepherd’s development and marketing director, said in a recent telephone interview.
Set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, in Orono, Good Shepherd’s 2010 Hunger Summit, “Community Leaders Ending Hunger,” aims to bring together 100 community and business leaders and those who are directly involved with feeding the hungry.
“It’s an opportunity to hear new ideas and develop innovative ways to get food to people in need,” Force said of the event.
Good Shepherd Food-Bank is the largest hunger relief organization in the state, providing surplus and purchased food to all 16 Maine counties.
The organization expects to distribute more than 13 million pounds of food during the current fiscal year, according to its website, www.gsfb.org.
“We’re definitely the hub,” Force said, adding that the Auburn-based food bank serves an estimated 600 member agencies.
Because of the size of the meeting space, the summit at the Black Bear Inn Conference Center is by invitation only, Force said.
Among the invitees, she said, are community and business leaders and people who are involved in serving the hungry, “so it’s really kind of a mix.” Participants have been drawn from Greater Bangor’s coastal region and the Augusta area, Force said. During the summit, they will break into groups of eight to work on hunger-related issues.
Force said Good Shepherd hopes to use the recommendations and suggestions put forth by participants to develop new models that will help eliminate hunger in Maine. A summary of the summit will be posted on Good Shepherd’s website, she said.
A summit held earlier in Portland drew a range of participants, including a supermarket official, a bank manager, people who work with food pantries and a representative from a refugee community, Force said.
That session yielded a number of suggestions, such as looking for ways to preserve local produce by canning or freezing to make it available beyond the traditional harvest season and ways to make it easier for Mainers to use food stamps at their local farmers markets, Force said.
The Orono summit will be led by Winter Robinson, who Force said has a background in organization development as well as a “passion for the hunger issue,” Force said.
She said Good Shepherd Executive Director Rick Small will open the summit and board chairwoman Diane Dunton will deliver the closing remarks.