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30-year-old Brewer food cupboard quietly closes

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Seen through a food cupboard shelf lined with canned goods, Paul Jerome talks with the BDN at the Brewer Christian Food Bank on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — The Brewer Christian Food Cupboard, which has operated out of a closet in the basement of a local church for nearly three decades, moved into a new, larger home on Center Street two years ago and things went downhill from there.

The food pantry, which was started by Anne Piper and others in the basement of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, closed on Aug. 17, part-time manager Jim Roche said on Friday, as the last of the remaining goods were donated to local agencies.

“We served about 130 households a month and fed probably 350 people,” he said.

The cost of operating the larger facility was the downfall, Roche said. When operating out of St. Patrick’s basement, the pantry had no overhead.

“It cost $3,200 a month to run the cupboard,” he said. “One-third went to rent, one-third went to the paid manager and one-third was spent on food.”

The cupboard was supported by food and monetary donations from eight area Christian churches and food donations from a number of local businesses. Money raised was used to buy food from Good Shepherd Food-Bank, which Roche said has been affected by the bad economy.

“Donations are down, so there is less food to divide” between regional food banks, he said. “We’re just a little fish in the pond. I don’t believe we will be the last food cupboard to close,”

City Manager Steve Bost said the city did attempt to help the Brewer Christian Food Cupboard stay afloat because, “anytime a resource like this closes it’s doors, it has an impact” on residents.

To lower operating costs, “we tried to assist them in finding an alternate location but were unsuccessful,” Bost said.

The Together Place in downtown Bangor on Union Street is accepting the food pantry’s displaced clients, Roche said.

“We’re also sending them to the Salvation Army” at 65 South Park St. in Bangor, Roche said. “And the Clifton Food Bank is taking the Eddington clients. The Together Place stepped up as soon as we made the announcement.”

The entrance to the Together Place, which is located across from the Bangor Y, is from Second Street. Proof of residency in Brewer, proof of income and social security cards are required at the first visit, a flyer about the facility posted at Brewer City Hall states.

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